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After Hours

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Jared was a skinny sixteen year old boy dressed in a black t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He had an orange rucksack and he was holding a blue textbook that didn't fit in with all of his other things. He slowly plodded out of his history classroom and down the crowded corridors towards the cold parking lot. He spotted his friend, Jake, sat on the short, red bricked wall at the foot of the steps at the entrance of the school. "Hey," Jared called. Jake looked up from his phone and smiled at him. "You okay?" Jake nodded shortly. "Are you sure?" Jared questioned, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah, yeah I'm good," shrugged Jake. "'S just my mother's working late so I need to wait for my grandparents to get here."

"Do you want me to wait with you?"

"Nah, it's okay. Is your dad here yet?"

"I'm driving back with my brother today," sighed Jared. "And his girlfriend, apparently."

"Good luck with that," chuckled Jake. Jared nodded stiffly and crossed the parking lot to where his brother's red car was parked in the middle of the parking lot. Jared appeared to be the first to the car, so he leant against the bonnet and waited for his brother to arrive.

 

Jared was forced into the back of the small vehicle beside his brother's guitar. He hugged his textbook to his chest as his brother blasted the radio and drove to his girlfriend's house. The girl, a short, brunette stranger, was giggling childishly at something that caused Jeff to roll his eyes. Jared stared out of the window as they past unfamiliar streets until they got to the girl's house. "Wait here, JT," Jeff said. "I'll be back soon." Jared nodded shortly as Jeff and his girlfriend padded out of the vehicle.

 

Jared's mother was cooking in the kitchen when her sons wandered in through the front door. "Good day?" she called, Jeff stuck his head around the corner of the door.

"No," he replied stiffly. "My AP physics teacher is a madman." Jared snorted behind him as their mother rolled her eyes. "What?" Jeff questioned, raising an eyebrow.

"I'm sure they're not that bad," she said.

"He is, he really is," grumbled Jeff.

"How was your day, Jared?" their mother asked.

"Same old, same old," Jared shrugged dully. Jeff rolled his eyes.

 

- - - - -

Jared awoke before his alarm the following morning, so he just laid in his bed staring up at the ceiling. He could hear the sound of the shower down the hallway, so he presumed that his mother was up, but he didn't want to bother to check the time. He yawned and pulled his quilt up to his chin as he heard his mother knock the door of his sister's room. He rubbed his eyes as he slowly sat up, not wanting to leave the comfort of his warm bed.

 

Jared felt half-asleep when he left his house to head to school. He sat at the back of his father's car quietly and pretended to listen to his sister's rambling about her lost art project. "Can't you teacher let you do it for home work?" their father asked. Meg shook her head certainly and began to explain that they only gave her a certain amount of hours to finish the project and, although, it wasn't her fault it was missing, the teacher said it was unfair to let her have more time. Jared stared out of the window as they approached the middle school. "I'll see you later," their father said as Meg clambered out of the car. Jared waved at her, but she didn't appear to notice as she walked towards the school.

 

Jared bid his father farewell as he bounded out of the car and towards the building. He saw a group of freshman congregating outside one of the bathrooms and shook his head, remembering when he was too timid to use the school bathrooms without a friend. He gripped the straps of his rucksack as he wandered into his homeroom.

 

- - - - -

Jared's last class before lunch was drama, through most of which he was very hungry. He was sat on one of the four tables at the back of the room and was reading through the script that the teacher had passed out, although he found himself reading the same line over and over again as he was distracted by his stomach. Amanda, who was sat next to him, was muttering the lines under her breath as their drama teacher patrolled the room. Jared rubbed the back of his neck as he tried to focus on his lines. He felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, so he glanced down at it as the woman turned to Amanda. Jared chuckled at the photo his friend Felicia sent him of her dog. "Jared," snapped the teacher. "Give me that." Jared looked up at her and frowned. The woman had her hand in his face and raised an eyebrow. "Phone, now," she droned. Jared huffed but handed it over, before turning his attention back to his script.

 

Jared was unsurprisingly partnered with Amanda to do his scene. He had expected that as they were the only pair on their table, but he was not looking forward to it as Amanda was very enthusiastic. As Jake and his partner read their version of the scene, Jared re-read his lines, not looking forward to having to read in front of the class. "Well done, guys," the drama teacher said. "Amanda, Jared, are you ready?" Amanda nodded eagerly and stood up, while Jared shrugged and slowly stood, leaning against his chair. Amanda began to recite her paragraph as Jared studied his class; about half of the class consisted of girls Jared barely spoke to who were whispering to one another, while the others were a mixture of Jake and his partner, a girl who was sketching skulls onto a piece of paper and three boys who were sat on a table at the back of the room, obviously laughing at what Amanda was saying. Jared inhaled shakily before he began to recite his own lines. He spoke softly to Amanda, not looking at the crowd as she had, until he finished. The class clapped politely, as they had for every other group, and Jared sat down. He glanced at his watch and mentally counted the minutes until he could leave.

 

Once the bell sounded, Jared was told to wait in his seat. Rolling his eyes, he remained in place and smiled at Jake when he walked past him. Jared watched as Amanda strode to the front of the room to hand in all the scripts she had collected. "Your confidence is improving," the teacher told her. "It's nice to see."

"Thanks," Amanda said, beaming.

"You know, we're holding auditions for the next school play on Friday, you should come along."

"Thanks," Amanda said brightly. She smiled at Jared as she began stuffing her things back into her rucksack.

"Jared," the teacher called. Jared huffed and threw his rucksack over his shoulder and approached her desk. "Here," she said, handing him his phone, "you can have this back now. I don't want to see it out in my lesson again, alright?" Jared nodded shortly. "You know," she continued, as Jared turned to walk away, "your performance was very well done; you ought to consider auditioning for the play, too."

"Um... thanks," Jared mumbled, before he padded out of the classroom.

 

Jared found Jake in the canteen with a plate of lasagna on a blue tray. He was sat opposite their friend Matt, who had a ham and cheese baguette that he brought in from home. Jared waved at them before he plodded to the back of the lunch line. He held back a yawn as he glanced up at the clock pinned on the opposite wall. He stood silently before he ordered his lasagna. There was no cake yet when he arrived, so he ordered a strawberry yogurt for dessert and joined his friends at their table. "Hey, JT, what took you so long?" Matt asked, opening his packet of doritos.

"I told you," said Jake, "he got held back in drama."

"What did you do?" Matt asked.

"I got caught on my phone," shrugged Jared, cutting up his food.

"Damn," chuckled Matt.

"Yeah," sighed Jared.

"Did she chew you out for it?" Jake questioned.

"Not really," replied Jared. "She told me not to do it again and complimented my performance."

"Nice," snorted Matt.

"Yeah, she told me I should try out for that play they're doing." Matt and Jake chuckled.

"I agree," said Matt. "You'd look great in tights." Jared rolled his eyes.

"Felicia was almost going to go for Ariel last year," piped up Jake.

"Yeah, until she realised how dorky it was," laughed Matt. "I mean, this isn't middle school." Jared shrugged.

- - - - -

"How was school, boys?" Jared's mother called as he and Jeff strode into their kitchen once they had arrived home. Jared shrugged and dropped his rucksack to the floor as he took an apple out of the fruit bowl as Jeff rolled his eyes.

"Awful," he grumbled. "My AP history teacher lost my essay so now I have to rewrite it by Monday."

"I'm sure you'll manage it," murmured their mother. Jeff shrugged and took and apple himself.

"So am I, but I have a ridiculous amount of other homework to do as well," huffed Jeff. "So it's really not convenient."

"How was your day, Jared?" their mother asked him.

"Same old, same old," he shrugged.

"Come on now," sighed their mother, pursing her lips. "There must be something that happened today."

"Uh... they ran out of cake by the time I got there so I couldn't have any," said Jared.

"Why were you late for lunch?" their mother asked, frowning.

"I got held back in drama," sighed Jared. "Apparently my teacher thinks I should be in the next school play."

"Sounds like a good idea," said their mother.

"Really?" scoffed Jared.

"Yeah, you're not very involved in school clubs anymore, you should try it," she said.

"Yeah, you did plays in fifth grade and you were good," piped up Jeff. Jared smiled and nodded, before he padded to his room.

- - - - -

Jared was running late the following morning; he didn't know how as he had done everything as he normally had, but he was hurrying through the halls to his homeroom, only to feel someone slap his chest. Jared froze and raised an eyebrow at Amanda, who was beside him. "Hey?" he questioned nervously. "C-Can I help you?" Amanda removed her hand from his chest and smiled at him.

"I heard you were told you should audition for the play on Friday," Amanda said. "I wanted to say that you really should; you're really good."

"Oh, uh... thanks," Jared replied awkwardly. "You're good too."

"Thanks," beamed Amanda.

"Uh... how did you know I was told to audition?"

"I heard Matt Cohen telling Robbie yesterday," shrugged Amanda. Jared rolled his eyes and nodded.

"Well, thanks," Jared said.

"Y'know, if you do audition, Ruth and I can meet you outside the auditorium so we can sit together," said Amanda.

"Oh, thanks," Jared murmured.

"Well, y'know, I didn't expect many of your friends to be interested in that," shrugged Amanda.

"No, you're right," sighed Jared. "I-I have to go. I'll see you."

- - - - -

Jared plodded unenthusiastically out of biology on Friday afternoon. He had a slight headache due to dehydration and was ready to go to sleep. "Are you going to the cinema tomorrow?" Jake asked him as they approached the steps. Jared raised an eyebrow.

"Why would I?" Jared questioned.

"This R-rated horror is showing tomorrow and Matt wants to sneak in," shrugged Jake.

"Oh, well, text me the timing and I'll see if my parents let me go." Jake nodded and padded down the steps to where Felicia and Matt were standing.

"Hey, JT, we're going to watch football try-outs, wanna come?" Matt called. Jared sighed.

"Uh... sorry, I can't," he muttered. "I told my mother I'd try out for the play." Matt rolled his eyes.

"Really?" Felicia chuckled. Jared nodded.

"Why don't you come to the football pitch, but tell your mother you were at the auditions and say you didn't get a part?" questioned Matt.

"Cos my brother's on the football team and he'll probably notice me," sighed Jared. "Sorry guys, maybe another time."

"Alright," said Jake.

"See you around, twinkle toes," chuckled Matt. Jared rolled his eyes and turned the corner, towards the auditorium.

 

Amanda and Ruth, the ginger haired girl who drew skulls in her book in class, were waiting outside as they said they would be. Jared smiled and waved at them and Amanda beamed back. "You came!" she cried. "Hey!" Jared nodded and smirked at Ruth, who rolled her eyes. "You ready?" Amanda asked. Jared nodded and followed the pair into the auditorium.

 

There were about thirty students sat on the hard, red seats in the auditorium. Jared followed Amanda and Ruth to the row second to the front, behind where the drama teachers were sat. Jared tied his shoelaces as Ruth took out her notebook and Amanda peered around the hall. "There are more people than I expected," she said.

"I suppose," said Ruth, not looking up from her book.

"Have you done this before?" Jared questioned.

"No, but my cousin was the lead of her school's play when she was a junior, so she told me what to expect," shrugged Amanda.

Mr. Kripke, the head of the drama department, told the hall that there were two options to audition for; a main role or a supporting role. There were three songs that he had prepared that they could choose from and they would be accompanied by a broad senior on the piano. "I didn't know we had to sing," murmured Jared glumly.

"Neither did I," grumbled Ruth.

"I did," said Amanda brightly. "It'll be fine."

"I don't like singing in front of people," mumbled Jared.

"You'll be fine," Amanda told him. "Don't worry about it."

 

Jared was too busy in his own head to pay much attention to the first lot of auditionees. He watched intently as Amanda strode to the front of the stage and sung her piece, but Ruth didn't even look up from her notebook. Jared applauded with everyone else as Amanda sat down and returned to reciting lyrics to the song he barely knew in his head as the next girl strode to the front of the stage. "You were great," Jared heard Ruth whisper. Amanda flushed but beamed at her.

 

Jared didn't pay the first few boys any more attention either. The nervous freshman sung slightly off key but Jared politely clapped along with everyone else as a senior with mousey hair approached the stage. "That's Mark," Amanda whispered. "I know for a fact he and his friends are only here to avoid detention."

"How do you know that?" Jared questioned.

"Jeffrey gave me the idea," shrugged Ruth. Jared chuckled and rolled his eyes. He rubbed the back of his neck as Mark began to mumble-sing his way through the song and clapped politely as he strode off stage. He was immediately replaced by a broad brunet. "That's Jeffrey," Ruth told him. Jared nodded and watched as the boy licked his lips and began to sing. He wasn't bad, and his diction was much clearer than Mark's, but Jared's eyes were drawn to the symbols drawn in sharpie all over his hands.

"Do you know what he's drawn there?" he asked Ruth quietly.

"Not at all," she shrugged, turning her attention back to the skull and crossbones she was doodling. Jared nodded and turned to face Amanda, who was mouthing along with the words that Jeffrey sung. Jared clapped as Jeffrey finished and strode off the stage, only for his place to be taken by a short, thin boy Jared vaguely recognised from one of their assemblies.

"That's Rich," whispered Amanda. "He's been the lead in the last three school shows." Jared nodded knowingly and watched as Rich began to sing. He wasn't really interested in the boy's performance and returned to mouthing the lyrics to his own song of choice to himself. Amanda clapped enthusiastically with the rest of the hall when Rich finished, but Ruth only rolled her eyes. "What's up with you?" Amanda asked.

"Nothing," shrugged Ruth. "I just don't see what everyone sees in him."

"He's the best singer here."

"Only cos everyone else is average," said Ruth. "Being above average isn't brilliant."

"Alright, alright," murmured Amanda, as the next boy strode to the stage. He was tall, taller than Rich, and he had light brown hair. He was wearing a white t-shirt that he had rolled up the sleeves of and a pair of black jeans. He was wringing his hands together and he looked uncomfortable.

"Who's that?" Jared questioned.

"Ackles," shrugged Amanda.

"He's one of Jeffrey's friends," said Ruth. "Also probably only here to avoid detention." Jared nodded. He watched as Ackles began to sing. He had a rich, soft voice that caught his attention much more than Rich's had. Jared felt goosebumps prickling up his arms as he caught on to every word Ackles sang. He glanced over at Amanda and Ruth, both of whom were also fixated on the boy. "I think your buddy has been dethroned," chuckled Ruth as Ackles finished and the room applauded him. Amanda nodded.

"Yeah, he's good," she said. "I can't say I expected that." Jared nodded in agreement and shifted uncomfortably as the next boy strode to the front as he knew his turn was approaching.

 

Jared wrung his hands together when he was called to the front of the room. He glanced at the lyric sheet on the piano to ensure he knew the words before he stood in the middle of the stage. He nodded at Kripke and the senior began to play the piano. Jared inhaled and began to sing softly, his eyes on his feet. He began to look around the room as he reached the chorus and spotted Ackles towards the back, sat between Jeffrey and Mark. Mark was talking to the girl beside him, but Ackles' eyes were straight on him and he was smiling slightly. Jared turned his attention to Kripke, who seemed content, and to Amanda and Ruth, who were both staring at him, also smiling. Jared sung louder as he started the second verse, feeling more confident now, his eyes straight ahead, not fixed on anyone in particular. He remained that way until he finished his song. Kripke nodded at him, so Jared nodded to the piano player and shuffled away, glancing to Ackles momentarily to see the boy still smiling in his direction. "You were so good," Amanda said as he sat down.

"Yeah, you were great," said Ruth seriously.

"Thanks guys," Jared said, feeling his cheeks flush pink. Amanda smiled at him as Kripke announced that those auditioning for supporting roles were to start filing out now, beginning with Alona, who was in Jared's math class. Alona's song was much shorter than Jared's and her voice was sweeter and soft. It sounded like a lullaby, but Jared clapped heartily once she had finished. Ruth was up next, so she closed her notebook and dropped it onto her chair before she padded to the stage. Like Alona, she sang a shorter song, but Jared had to admit she was very good at it and she appeared to be much more confident than he was.

 

After the last person had sang, Kripke clapped his hands and strode to the centre of the stage. "Well done, everyone," he said. "You've made this decision very hard for us. A cast list will be posted outside the drama rooms next Friday morning. You can all go now." Jared scrambled to his feet and pulled his rucksack over his shoulder. He followed Ruth out of the door and realised that Amanda wasn't following them.

"Where's Amanda gone?" he asked, puzzled.

"She's probably gone to try to talk to one of the other drama nerds," shrugged Ruth. "Probably talking about broadway or something."

"Do you suppose that the football tryouts are still going on?"

"I dunno."

"Okay, thanks anyway," sighed Jared. Ruth nodded and climbed over a bush, towards the back entrance of the school, while Jared plodded around the corner. He noticed Jeff's car was still in the parking lot and let out a sigh of relief. As the sound of footsteps approached, he tied his shoelaces on the top step and began to walk towards the football field.

"Oi, kid, where're you headed?" snapped someone behind him. Jared spun around to see Mark, Jeffrey and Ackles staring at him. Jared cocked his head and frowned at Mark. "The exit's over there," the older boy said dramatically, pointing to the parking lot."

"I know," said Jared stiffly.

"So where are you going?" Jeffrey asked.

"To the football pitch," shrugged Jared.

"Why?" inquired Mark. "Gonna mess up the equipment or something?"

"No, I need to meet my brother," Jared replied. He rolled his eyes at the older boys and continued towards the field.

 

Jeff and his girlfriend were sat on the bench closest to the field when Jared arrived. He could still feel Mark's eyes burning into the back of his head as he sat beside him. Jeff ruffled his hair and smiled. "How'd it go, JT?" he asked. Jared shrugged. Jeff peered over his shoulder and scowled, obviously noticing the three stood behind them. "Is Pelligrino giving you shit?" Jeff asked darkly. Jared shook his head. "Are you sure?" Jeff questioned. "Cos I've been looking for a reason to beat the shit out of him all year; cocky bastard."

"He's fine, he's just annoying," sighed Jared. "And rude."

"Yeah, he is," growled Jeff.

"Do you know them, much?" Jared asked.

"I know Pelligrino well enough," sighed Jeff. "He was in enough of my classes in sophomore year. He's an arrogant, stubborn prick who won't admit when he's wrong and likes to pick on anyone smaller than him, which is most people. I don't know the other two well, though, they're juniors. I know Ackles plays baseball with Pelligrino and is a damn side quieter than he is, but I don't know him personally. I doubt anyone who chooses to hang around with him can be anything but bad news, though." Jared nodded glumly. He didn't know why, but he was hoping that Jeff would have told him something positive about Ackles, the boy with the soft voice and sweet smile.

"Are you ready to go?" Jared asked.

"I want to see Matty try out first," Jeff sighed. Jared nodded. Matty was the freshman who Jeff tutored in physics. It was Jeff and his friend who had convinced Matty to work up the confidence to try out in the first place, so Jared understood why he wanted to see him play.

- - - - -

Jared awoke on Saturday morning to see he had three missed calls from Jake. Groaning, he sat up and called him back, before pressing his phone to his ear. "Hello?" he muttered.

"Hey, JT, how was the drama thing?" Jake asked brightly.

"Uh... alright, I guess," Jared shrugged. "No offence, but is there a reason you're calling me at the crack of dawn?" Jake sniggered.

"Yeah, I just thought I'd warn you that Matt gave your number to Amanda and her weird friend," he replied. Jared let out a sigh of relief.

"Alright, are we still off to the cinema later?" he asked.

"Yeah, see you then," replied Jake, before he hung up. Jared glanced at his clock and decided that he could get another hour's sleep before he needed to get ready to leave the house.

Chapter Text

Jared liked his art class. He sat on a table at the back of the room with Matt and Jake. There was another kid on their table that he didn't know very well, but he spent most of his time walking around the classroom so he didn't bother Jared much. Jared had a large art book in which he was drawing a robot for his art project. Jared had art first on Wednesday and arrived before Matt and Jake, so he pulled out his book and began to colour in the face of his robot. He had almost finished this when Jake and Matt finally arrived. Their art teacher narrowed her eyes at them as they slowly plodded to their seats. "Where've you been?" Jared asked. Matt shrugged.

"We tried ditching homeroom," said Jake. "We got caught by a janitor." Jared chuckled.

"What happened?" he asked.

"We tried hiding, it didn't work," shrugged Matt. "So we got taken to the vice-principal's. We told her we'd turned up late and needed the bathroom, so she allowed us to just go to lessons."

"At least you didn't get detention," said Jared. Jake nodded in agreement.

"Have we missed much?" Matt asked.

"No, we just got told to sit down and get out our work," shrugged Jared. "We got consent forms for some sex-ed talk in homeroom, though, so you'll need to get one of those."

"I'll get it tomorrow," shrugged Jake.

"Now, onto more important things," Matt said, grinning. "Cheer practice is today after school, want to go and watch?"

"Won't that seem a bit creepy?" Jake asked.

"How?"

"Well, if we just sit on the bleachers watching the cheerleaders, we'd look creepy, right?"

"I agree," muttered Jared.

"Relax, Felicia's coming too," shrugged Matt.

"I don't think having a girl with us will make us look any less creepy," said Jake. Matt shrugged.

"Stop worrying," he said. "Are you gonna come or not?"

"Decidedly not," replied Jake. Matt groaned.

"What about you, JT? Are you gonna come?"

"Uh... I think my brother's girlfriend is a cheerleader so I suppose I'd have to wait anyway," he murmured.

"Great," Matt beamed.

 

Jared's parents had prepared sandwiches for him, so he didn't need to line up with Jake to get the poorly-made curry that the school was serving. Instead, he located Felicia on a circular table in the corner of the canteen and sat opposite her. "Hey," she said brightly. "How's your day going?"

"Not great," sighed Jared.

"What's up?" Felicia questioned, sipping her water.

"I just have a shit ton of homework now," shrugged Jared. "And some asshole kept throwing shit at the back of my head in English." Felicia shook her head sympathetically.

"I'm sure you'll be fine," she said. "You're really smart, so I'm sure you'll get it done." Jared smiled at her and took his ham and cheese sandwiches out of his rucksack and a small carton of apple juice. Felicia bit into her ham and lettuce baguette before she pointed Jake out in the line. "Where's Matt?" she asked. "I'd've thought he'd be with Jake?"

"I think he went to find Katie or something," shrugged Jared. Felicia nodded. "So... I hear you're going to check out some cheerleaders after school?" Jared asked. Felicia chuckled and rolled her eyes.

"Apparently. I'm more interested in finding out why Matt is so excited; surely it's just watching people do gymnastics, which he described as one of the most boring sports in the Olympics." Jared shrugged.

"I suppose."

"Are you coming too?" Felicia asked.

"Yeah," sighed Jared. "I'm pretty sure my brother's new girlfriend is a cheerleader and he's my ride home as well as her's, so I'll have to wait anyway." Felicia nodded.

"How'd that play thing go?" she asked. "Are we going to be seeing you in tights soon?" Jared rolled his eyes.

"I don't know," he shrugged. "The audition wasn't as bad as I had expected, but I don't know if I got a part or not; I'll find out on Friday. I don't really know if I want a part or not, you know, I only really did it because my parents wanted me to." Felicia nodded knowingly as she bit into her baguette again. 

"I'm sure if you don't enjoy it you can come up with a reason to quit," she said. Jared nodded and bit into his sandwich as Jake approached their table.

 

Jared's last lesson of the day was physics, in which he sat alone on the front desk. There were a pair of giggling girls on the desk beside him and he recognised Ruth in the corner of the classroom, but nobody said anything to him. Jared wished he was in the same class as Jake and Matt, who were next door, but he supposed he got more work done without them. When the bell sounded, Jared shoved his worksheets and textbook into his rucksack and waited for the girls to move so he could leave. "Good work today, Mr. Padalecki," his teacher said as he left the room. "Keep it up." Jared smiled and nodded before he left the room.

 

Jared met Jake and Matt in the corridor outside their classrooms. Matt was out first, as he had seemingly leapt from his chair the second that the bell sounded, but Jared met him before Jake arrived. "He's probably staying behind to get his homework marks from last lesson," shrugged Matt. "I didn't turn anything in so I have nothing to care about." He chuckled as Jared rolled his eyes. Matt glanced at his phone and sighed. "I really wish he'd hurry up," he muttered. Jared nodded in agreement.

 

Once Jake finally joined them, they padded down a flight of stairs and out of the school. Jared cocked his head when he spotted Jeff waiting on the top of the steps outside the entrance. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow," Jake said. Matt groaned. Jake rolled his eyes.

"I still don't see why you don't want to come," Matt called after him. Jake didn't reply.

"I'll meet you there," Jared muttered to Matt, before he approached Jeff. "Hey?" he muttered.

"Hey, are you ready to do?" Jeff asked. "We need to hurry; I need to come back to pick up Lils."

"Um... I was gonna stay with Matt and Felicia and watch the cheerleaders," replied Jared. Jeff raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, okay," he shrugged. "I'm gonna head to the shop, then, do you want anything?" Jared shook his head. "I'll get you a drink or something, then," Jeff said, before he walked away. Jared rubbed the back of his neck and strode around the corner to the field. He easily spotted Matt and Felicia on the bleachers, mumbling quietly to one another. They were not the only people on the bleachers; there were three girls sat on the front bench and a pair of boys at the back, not paying much attention. Jared slumped onto the bench beside Felicia.

"How're you?" Felicia asked. Jared shrugged.

"What are we doing here, exactly?" he asked.

"Watching the cheerleaders," replied Matt. "I told you that."

"Yeah, but, why?"

"Cos they're hot," shrugged Matt. "And there's nothing else to do around here; all the films in the cinema are R-Rated or little kid flicks and the burger joint in the mall is shut for renovations for two weeks."

"Sounds like you're in dire need of entertainment, then," Felicia told him dryly. Matt nodded.

 

 Before long, the cheerleaders, sixteen thin girls in the white and blue colours of the school, walked onto the pitch. Two of them were holding plastic horns Jared had only seen at football matches and one of them was holding a clipboard. Jared took one of his maths textbooks out of his bag and flipped through it, only to earn a huff of disapproval from Matt. "The show's about to start," he said. "And you're doing math?"

"I have homework," Jared replied slowly. 

"You disappoint me," Matt sighed.

"I'd prefer disappoint you than my mother," shrugged Jared. Felicia chuckled. Matt rolled his eyes and turned his attention to the girls who were now beginning their warm ups. 

 

  Not long after the girls stopped their warm ups and began to practice their routine, Jared spotted three figures wandering around the corner. Jared shook his head when he realised that the first figure was Mark Pellegrino. He was wearing a black t-shirt and smoking a cigarette. Behind him was Jeffrey and Ackles, both of whom had their hands stuffed in the pockets of their jeans and appeared to be slightly uncomfortable. Jared had finished his math homework and was forcing his books back into his bag when he heard Mark laugh. He looked up and realised that he had noticed him. "Do you know those guys, JT?" Matt asked. "They seem to be looking at us."

"Uh... not really," Jared replied. "I kinda met them at the auditions for the play but I know my brother doesn't like them."

"They don't seem to like us," whispered Felicia as the three clambered into the bleachers and sat on the bench in front of them. Felicia raised an eyebrow at them, but didn't say anything. Matt turned his attention back to the cheerleaders, who were now playing some sort of music behind their routine.

"Leah's hot," Matt whispered. Jared shrugged, not sure which of the girls Leah was. "Although that blonde chick holding her leg is too," Matt added. Jared nodded, still not sure who he was referring too.

" You're checking out Katie?" scoffed Mark, turning around. "Please, give me a break; that'll never happen."

"Who asked you?" snapped Matt. Mark rolled his eyes. Jeffrey and Ackles turned around, supposedly to see what was going on, and Jared lowered his gaze to his feet after Ackles studied him. He didn't know why he didn't want to make eye contact with the emerald-eyed boy, but he didn't want to contemplate it.

"Listen, you pint-sized prick, I'm gonna give you a piece of advice; shut your fucking mouth and don't speak to me again," snarled Mark.

"And why do you think you're something special?" scoffed Matt. Mark stood up and snarled in his face.

"Mark, calm down, buddy," Ackles muttered. Jared looked up and stared at him, suppressing a small smile. "Leave the kid alone." Mark ignored him.

"You're a cocky little prick, you know that, right?" spat Mark. Matt rolled his eyes. Mark leant forward a little closer so he was almost nose-to-nose with Matt, who raised an eyebrow at him. Jared wondered how Matt remained so stoic as he felt uncomfortable and Mark had more or less ignored him.

"You know you're not intimidating with the cigarette breath, right?" spat Matt. Mark growled. Jeffrey stood up and gripped Mark's forearm. Matt rolled his eyes.

"We should go," Ackles said quickly.

"What, you're afraid of a few freshman?" cackled Mark.

"We're sophomores," snapped Matt.

"Oh, sorry," scoffed Jeffrey. "Cos that makes all the difference." Matt rolled his eyes again.

"Look, could you just please leave us alone?" Felicia asked weakly. Jared nodded in agreement. Mark scoffed. "We haven't done anything to you," she continued. "And I think this is undeserved." Matt stared at her blankly before nodding seriously. Ackles shrugged. Jeffrey rolled his eyes and pulled Mark to the steps.

"Why don't you just shut your mouth, too, you little bitch," snarled Mark.

"There's no need for that, man," Ackles muttered. Mark turned around and pushed him.

"Who's side are you on, man?" spat Mark, glowering.

"Look, I'm just saying, you don't need to be so rude to her," Ackles said. "The kids are literally just sitting there with their friends." Mark rolled his eyes.

"You get off me," he snarled at Jeffrey, who released his arm. Mark flopped back onto the bench, now sat in front of Matt. Ackles sat beside him, in front of Jared, but Jeffrey moved to a bench one row further down so he was sat in front of Mark. "Look at Talia's ass," Mark said none too quietly. Jared rolled his eyes and pulled his phone out of his pocket.

 

  The cheerleaders had finished their practice and were packing up when Jeff arrived. Lily ran over to him and kissed him, causing Jared to groan and shake his head. Felicia and Matt chuckled. "What, bitch-boy, do you have a thing for the upper-class ladies too?" chortled Mark, turning around. Jared shook his head, not bothering to explain the situation as he didn't want to talk to Mark. Jeff flushed as they broke apart and waved as Lily padded back inside, while he strode up the steps to the bleachers. "Padalecki," said Mark, narrowing his eyes as Jeff sat beside Matt. Jeff shook his head.

"Pelligrino," he said. "You reek of smoke."

"You reek of disappointment," snarled Mark.

"Don't you have, like a 1.3 GPA or something?" scoffed Jeff. "And you're attempting to judge me?"

"Oh, get lost," growled Mark. Jeff raised an eyebrow at him and rolled his eyes. "Stop staring at me," murmured Mark.

"Oh, grow up," groaned Jeff.

"Hey, buddy, what's your problem?" Jeffrey asked.

"Sorry, who are you?" Jeff asked. Jeffrey stood up and frowned. "Seriously, who is this kid? I've never seen him before."

"They're juniors," muttered Mark, also standing up.

"Have you really ran out of friends in our grade? Y'know what, I see why," chuckled Jeff. Mark growled. Jeff stood up, highlighting how much he towered over Mark, and Mark, Jeffrey and Ackles strode off the bleachers. Jeff rolled his eyes. "Were they giving you trouble?" he asked.

"A little," shrugged Jared.

"They're dicks," muttered Matt. Jeff laughed.

"You can say that again," he muttered.

- - - - -

Jared was still very tired when he arrived at school the following morning. He supposed it was because he had stayed up for most of the night playing video games on the computer with Matt, so he drank pure black coffee before he left for school, making sure his mother didn't notice. Jeff had already left to meet some of his friends before school, so Jared clambered into the back of his father's car. He brushed his toast crumbs off his green t-shirt and forced himself to keep his eyes open as he waited for his sister to arrive. "Anything planned for school today?" his father asked him. Jared shook his head. "What's for lunch today?" his father asked.

"I never know," sighed Jared.

"Is there no menu on the website?" his father questioned.

"I don't know," shrugged Jared.

 

 When Jared got to school, it was raining. He regretted not taking a coat with him as he rushed into the building. He ran a hand through his wet hair as he strode into his homeroom classroom. He slumped onto his seat beside Jake and nodded at him. "You look like a wet dog, man," snorted Jake. Jared rolled his eyes.

"Thanks," he said, biting his lip. Jake chuckled. "How're you?" Jared asked.

"Alright," shrugged Jake. "I hear from Matt that your creeping session didn't go well, then." Jared chuckled and nodded.

"Yeah, I don't think we'll be doing that again."

"Good," Jake said.

 

  Jared sat with Matt and Jake at lunch as Felicia was in detention. He ate his burger and listened to Matt complain about his old physics teacher, who had accused him of deliberately pouring Iodine on his exercise book, which he swore he hadn't. Jared ate one of his under-cooked curly fries as Jake laughed. "He's got another thing coming to him if he thinks I'm going to rewrite two months of work," scoffed Matt, "cos that's just not happening." Jared chuckled lightly.

"I doubt he actually expects you to," piped up Jake.

"Good," snorted Matt, "cos my Halloween is not going to be spent doing boring-ass physics, no sir-ee."

"What are your plans for Halloween this year?" Jake asked.

"I haven't decided yet," shrugged Matt.

"If you have plans, let me know, because I need to get out of trick-o-treating with my sister," Jared muttered. Matt and Jake laughed.

"You can come to mine, if you want," said Jake. "My brother's going to a party and my dad won't mind if we stay in the basement."

"And do what?" scoffed Matt.

"I dunno, we can get some horror films or games or something," shrugged Jake. "It's just a suggestion."

"Thanks," Jared said quickly. "Do you want me to bring snacks?"

"Any chance you can steal some beer from Jeff?" Matt asked.

"I doubt it," replied Jared. "I don't know where he hides it."

"I think my brother's got a case of beers in the garage," shrugged Jake. "I'm sure he won't notice if a few go missing." Matt grinned.

 

 Jared saw Felicia and Jake sat on the wall outside the entrance to the school as he headed outside. "Hey," he said, smirking. Felicia nodded at him. Jake didn't look up from his phone. "What's up?" Jared asked.

"Jake's grandmother's running late again," Felicia said. Jake nodded.

"Do you want me to ask Jeff to give you a lift? I think his girlfriend has some club or something."

"I'm okay, Jay," Jake shrugged. "I'll see you tomorrow." Jared nodded.

- - - - -

Jared downed a cup of almost black coffee the following morning again as he had spent most of his night studying for a history pop quiz. He read through his textbook as he ate his toast in the kitchen and frowned as his mother hit his head with a tea towel. "Go and sit at the table," she told him. "Shoo." Jared shook his head.

"I'm almost done," he said, around a mouthful of toast. "Then I'll go." Mrs. Padalecki rolled her eyes and swilled out her porridge bowl. Jared ran a hand through his hair as he finished his toast and dropped the plate into the sink.

"I''m off, Ma," Jeff said, striding into the room.

"Where are you going?" Mrs. Padalecki asked sharply. "School doesn't start for another hour ." Jeff shrugged.

"I'm going to meet some friends at the store," shrugged Jeff. "No big deal, I'll still make it to school on time." Jared closed his book and slowly left the room.

"Why don't you go shopping after school?" Mrs. Padalecki asked. Jared wandered upstairs to his room as Jeff began to complain. He sat on the foot of his bed and opened his book again, staring at a page on the French Revolution.

 

 Jared's history quiz was easier than he expected, but he had a surprise geography pop quiz before lunch that he did not find enjoyable. He was complaining about it to Felicia as he strode out of the classroom after the bell sounded. "Honestly, I don't really care what I get on that," Felicia said. "It was awful." Jared nodded glumly as he felt a pat on his shoulder. He frowned and turned around to see Amanda smiling at him. Jared smiled back.

"Uh... hello," he said awkwardly. "How're you?"

"Oh, I'm fine," Amanda said brightly. "Are you going to the drama department now or after lunch, because if you're going now you can come with Ruth and I... y'know, if you want to." She smiled again. Jared nodded.

"Why are you going to the drama class at lunch?" Felicia asked.

"They're posting the cast list for that play I auditioned for today," Jared replied. The play had completely slipped his mind over the past few days as he had been so focused on his tests. "Uh... should I meet you in the canteen?" he asked. Felicia shook her head.

"Matt and I are going to eat on the bleachers and watch the girls' volleyball," Felicia sighed. "Why, I don't know, but I like outside as much as the next person and there's always a chance of finding lost cash under the bleachers." Felicia and Jared chuckled, but Amanda did not. Jared nodded.

"I'll see you later, then," he said uncomfortably, before he followed Amanda around the corner to the water fountain, where Ruth was stood, attempting to clean black ink off her pale skin. "Uh... what happened to you?" Jared asked, raising an eyebrow. Ruth chuckled.

"I got bored in French," she shrugged. "Apparently Madam Johnson didn't appreciate the Latin." Jared chuckled and rolled his eyes. Amanda clucked her tongue disapprovingly. Ruth rolled her eyes and rolled down her sleeves, covering her wrists. Amanda shook her head and lead the way to the drama corridor.

 

Jared tailed the pair to the corner of the corridor, between the two drama classrooms, to where the noticeboard was hung up. There was a small crowd of students, no more than seven or so people, reading it. Amanda immediately joined them, standing on her tiptoes in an attempt to read the list. "They look like idiots, don't they?" chuckled Ruth. Jared nodded silently. "Why don't they just wait so they're not bouncing up and down? Weirdos," Ruth scoffed. Jared shrugged. Ruth scratched her chin as she heard one of the kids squeal.

 

"Well done," Amanda exclaimed when she rejoined her friends. Jared raised an eyebrow and Ruth rolled her eyes.

"Did I win the lottery?" she drawled. Amanda scoffed.

"I was talking to Jared," she replied hotly. Ruth rolled her eyes. 

"Why am I being congratulated?" Jared questioned. 

"You got one of the leads," Amanda replied.

"What? Really?" Jared asked. "Why? I wasn't even that good."

"Clearly Kripke and Johnson disagree."

"Who are you playing, then?" Ruth asked.

"Oh, I'm just playing a secretary, but it's fine, I guess," Amanda said. "There's always next time and it'll be fun, anyway." Ruth nodded. "You play Jared's sister," Amanda told her brightly. Ruth smirked.

"Older or younger?"

"Older." 

"Nice," Ruth said, grinning. Jared rolled his eyes. 

"Do I have any other siblings?" he asked.

"Yeah, you've got two brothers that you grew up with, but I didn't see who was playing them," Amanda replied. "Haven't you read the play."

"To be fair, you haven't told me who I'm playing yet."

"Oh, you're playing Mickey."

"The one who shoots his twin?"

"Yeah, that one," Amanda said.

"Cool," chuckled Ruth.

"Who's playing my twin?" Jared asked.

"J. Ackles apparently," shrugged Amanda. "Personally I don't see it, but, damn, the boy can sing like an angel." Jared widened his eyes, feeling pretty certain he didn't want to spend much more time with Ackles. 

"Anyone want to go and get food, I'm starving?" muttered Ruth.

"Good idea," replied Jared.

 

  Once the final bell of the school day rang, Jared went to the entrance of the school to meet Felicia. Mrs. Padalecki had given Jared a few dollars to head to the local shop after school to buy sweets in preparation for Halloween. "What are you doing this year?" Felicia asked him as they approached the shop. "Going to any parties?"

"Going to Jake's," Jared shrugged. "What are you doing?"

"My cousin's throwing a party that apparently I have to attend," she replied. "But it seems that it actually sounds pretty cool, so I'm not complaining." Jared nodded. "So, what are you planning on getting?"

"Sour stuff," Jared replied.

"I'm gonna get those white chocolate ball things," Felicia told him.

"We need gummy bears, as well," Jared said. 

"Ooh, and gummy worms and those little chewy hearts," Felicia added excitedly. Jared nodded. 

 

  Jared returned home with six packs of sweets in a white carrier bag, which he did not disclose to his parents. He headed straight to his room and threw the carrier bag into his wardrobe and threw off his polo shirt. He took a green t-shirt out of his wardrobe and threw it over his head as there was a knock on the door. "'Lo," he called. His mother slowly opened the door and smiled at him.

"How was school?" she asked. 

"Same old, same old," shrugged Jared.

"Weren't you supposed to find out about if you got a part in that play or not today?" Mrs. Padalecki inquired.

"Oh, uh... yeah, I did," Jared murmured.

"So, how did it go?" 

"I, uh... I got a part," Jared replied sheepishly. "I, uh... I got an important part, actually." Mrs. Padalecki beamed.

"Well done, sweetie," she said. Jared nodded.

- - - - -

Jared did not see the point in dressing up the following evening, much to his mother's disappointment as she was hoping for the annual picture of Jared and Megan on the front porch. To humour her, Jared put on a bright orange shirt with a pumpkin on his chest. The shirt was a few years old so it was a little worn and it didn't fit him correctly, but he didn't mind too much. He covered it with his denim jacket and headed downstairs, to where his mother was taking photos of Megan in her 'grim reaper' attire. "Mature, JT," Megan chuckled when she saw him. Jared rolled his eyes. Mrs. Padalecki chuckled when she saw his t-shirt.

"Do you want to sit on the couch behind her for a picture, J?" she asked. Jared rolled his eyes.

"Sure," he sighed. Jared perched himself on the edge of the couch and smiled as Mrs. Padalecki snapped a photograph on her phone.

"I need to go, mom," moaned Megan. "Or I'm going to be late." Jared rolled his eyes, but waved to her as she left the room.

"What time are you going, J?" Mrs. Padalecki asked.

"About eight," shrugged Jared.

"That's a bit late, isn't it?" snapped Mr. Padalecki, sticking his head around the door frame. "What time will you be back?"

"I dunno, Matt's mother's giving me a lift home," Jared replied.

"Make sure it's not too late, ya hear me?" said Mr. Padalecki. Jared nodded. "And please tell me you're not planning on drinking or anything stupid."

"I don't think so," Jared murmured, knowing full well that at least Matt intended to get drunk.

"That's not reassuring," said Mrs. Padalecki. Jared rolled his eyes.

 

 There was a pair of clumsily carved pumpkins on the top step of Jake's porch. Jared assumed that Jake and his brother had made them, but he didn't question it. He said goodbye to Jeff, who had driven him to Jake's house, and wandered up the thin, white driveway. He knocked the door and stood awkwardly outside, having heard Jeff drive away.  Jared stuck his hands in his pockets and waited silently until Mrs. Abel opened the door. "Good evening, Jared," she said politely. 

"Uh, hey," Jared murmured. "Is-is Jake here?"

"Yes, dear, Jake and Matt are in the basement. You can go through, if you'd like." 

"Thanks," Jared replied. He followed her into the house dutifully and plodded down to the basement.

 

 Jared spent most of his night sat on the old, green couch Jake's parents kept in the basement, watching Jake play some sort of zombie-slaying video game. It was cold, down there, and thanks to Matt it reeked of cheap beer that he had stolen from Jake's brother's room. Jake's brother had headed to a party down town, his mother had gone to a friend's house for her monthly book club and Mr. Abel had fallen asleep not long after Jared arrived, so they were undisturbed. Matt spent most of the night complaining about how bored he was and how he knew most other kids were having much more fun and Jake didn't really look away from his game, so Jared spent most of the night sitting silently on the couch, his eyes on his phone. "Hey, Matt," he asked slightly after midnight.

"What?" Matt replied gruffly. 

"Do you know when your mom is gonna pick us up?" Jared asked.

"I dunno," replied Matt. "She said she'd message me when she was on her way."

"Where is she, anyway?" Jake asked, not bothering to look over his shoulder at the pair.

"I dunno, some dinner," shrugged Matt.

"What dinner is at one in the morning?" Jake questioned.

"There's some after party too." 

 

  It was nearly half two when Jared finally returned home. He was tired and ready to collapse, but, of course, his parents couldn't just let him go to bed. They subjected him to a thirty minute rant in the kitchen before the let him flop onto his bed, after warning him not to wake Jeff, who had returned home an hour or so before. 

Chapter Text

Jared wore an orange polo shirt and a pair of black jeans to school on Monday morning. He slugged his rucksack onto his back as he clambered out of his father's car and ran a hand through his hair. "Jeff's got detention today so Mom'll be here to pick you up," Mr. Padalecki reminded him. Jared nodded shortly and waved to him, before he padded into the building.

 

Matt and Jake were stood beside a set of lockers in the main hallway when Jared arrived. He smiled at them as Matt summoned him over and sighed. According to his watch, he was already late to homeroom, which was not something he wanted to make a habit of, but he padded over to them anyway. "Morning, guys," Jared muttered. "Are you ditching homeroom again?"

"No, we're waiting for Amy," Matt replied shortly.

"Amy?" Jared questioned.

"Amy Gumenick, that junior on the debate team," sighed Matt. "Word on the street is her brother can get weed, and the good stuff, too."

"And you want to get weed off her?"

"Matt does, anyway," muttered Jake. Jared rolled his eyes. "I'm just curious," Jake continued. Matt shrugged.

"Well, I'm gonna head to homeroom," Jared said awkwardly.

"You'd better not rat us out, JT," growled Matt. Jared rolled his eyes.

"I won't, I won't," he muttered.

 

  Jared wandered into homeroom and slumped into his seat without glancing at their teacher, who was preoccupied with his monitor anyway. He rubbed the back of his neck as he threw his pencil case onto his desk. "Morning, everyone," the teacher said. "Mr. James, from the math department wants his sophomore class to ensure they have their textbooks with them today. If you do not, please see him before fourth period." Jared glanced at his watch as the girl at the front of the room asked the homeroom teacher something quietly before Jake awkwardly shifted into the room.  "Where have you been?" the teacher asked him. 

"Sorry, I needed to drop a book off at the library," Jake lied. 

"Okay, sit down," the teacher said. "Come here first next time, alright? Do you have Mr. James for math?"

"No, I have Miss. Conners," Jake replied.

"Okay, then, well get out some homework or something."

"Alright," shrugged Jake, before he sat on the seat beside Jared and took out his English work.  "Hey," he muttered. Jared nodded and loosened his cheap watch around his wrist. 

"How'd it go?" Jared asked quietly.

"Amy turned up, but she didn't have the stuff on her, and she refuses to give anything to anyone under junior year, so Matt's going to get his cousin to meet her or something," Jake replied. "All I know is we didn't get caught, so that's good."

"Yeah, I guess."

"Did I miss much?" 

"No, not at all." 

 

  Jared's first class of the day was English. Jared had spent his Sunday afternoon rushing through an essay on the witches in Macbeth and, although he knew it wasn't to his usual standard, he was still proud of his work. Jake, however, was still scribbling his essay as they sat at their desk. Jared smiled at Ruth, who was sat at the desk in front of them, but she only nodded, an emotionless expression on her face. "How's the essay going?" Jared asked his friend, who had scrunched up his face in concentration.

"Horribly," groaned Jake. "I've given up on adding any quotes at this point." Jared chuckled and glanced at his watch as he heard someone sit on the seat beside him. He raised an eyebrow at Amanda, who smiled at him. "Uh... hey?" said Jake, raising an eyebrow also.

"Hey," she said. "Jared, did you know we need to get our scripts from Johnson today?"

"Uh... no, I did not," Jared mumbled. "Should I have been told that in homeroom?"

"No, you should have gotten an email," Amanda huffed.

"Oh, I don't regularly check my school email," chuckled Jared awkwardly.

"Who does?" scoffed Jake. Amanda tutted.

"When do we need to get them?" Jared asked.

"Any time," shrugged Amanda. "Meg and I are going at lunch."

"Okay," Jared murmured. 

 

  Jared decidedly didn't collect his script at lunch time as he was looking forward to the chocolate cake that was served for dessert at lunch time. The custard was not as warm as he would have liked, but he decided that it was worth it. He listened to Matt and Felicia complain about their history teacher as he ate, not having much to say as he had never met the man, while Jake tried to mope about getting detention for swearing in math, but nobody was paying him any attention. 

 

 Jared padded to the drama block after the final bell rang, signaling the end of the day. He threw bounded up the stairs, fighting with the sea of freshman rushing down, and knocked on the door of Mr. Johnson's classroom. Mr. Johnson was talking to a pair of blonde haired freshman Jared didn't know, so he lingered outside the door until the pair skipped towards him and Mr. Johnson beckoned him inside. "Ah, Jared," he said. "I wasn't sure if you'd gotten my message." He strode back to his desk and took a pink folder out of one of his draws. He pulled out a thick script and slid it across the desk to Jared, who strode forward to collect it. "Most kids want to highlight their lines, which I'd recommend, but you don't have to," Mr. Johnson told him. "Rehearsal starts Wednesday for an hour between three twenty and four twenty and you'll need to bring this with you. It might be tempting to leave it in your bag until then, but i recommend reading it through and writing your name on it before then."

"Alright," Jared murmured. "Will do."

"Great," Mr. Johnson said. "Now, what's your last name again?"

"Uh, Padalecki," Jared replied. Mr. Johnson nodded and ticked off Jared's name on a list he kept in the folder. 

"Have you seen Ackles or Pellegrino, by any chance?" he asked. Jared shook his head. "Alright, if you do, can you ask them to come up here?" Jared nodded shortly and wandered out of the classroom.

 

  Mrs. Padalecki was stood outside of her car and waving to Jared as he marched towards the parking lot. He stuffed his script into his rucksack and crossed across the hedges to get towards her. He kept his eyes on his feet as he noticed Mark Pellegrino and two friends cross the parking lot, coming closer to him, Fortunately, Pellegrino did not notice him as Jared managed to make it to his mother's car without confrontation. "Heya," Mrs. Padalecki said. "What took you so long?"

"I had to pick something up," shrugged Jared, sliding into the back of the car. Meg was already sat there, shaking her head and sipping a bottle of water.

"You're late," Meg said. Jared rolled his eyes.

"What were you getting, sweetie?" Mrs. Padalecki asked as she slipped into the driver's seat. "Homework or something?"

"Uh... I had to pick up the script for that play I'm doing," Jared replied. 

"Do I get to come and watch?" Meg asked, perking up.

"Uh... why?" Jared asked, concerned by her eagerness. 

"I want to come and see the high school," shrugged Meg.

"Uh... I suppose," Jared shrugged. 

"We'll all come and watch," Mrs. Padalecki said.

"Don't make that commitment until I find out how good it is," chuckled Jared. Mrs. Padalecki rolled her eyes.

- - - - -

It was surprisingly sunny Wednesday morning when Jared plodded into homeroom. Jake was already sat there, obviously on his phone, so he dropped onto the seat beside him and ran a hand through his hair. "Morning," Jared murmured. "How're you?"

"Not bad," Jake shrugged. "Did you watch Matt's stream last night?"

"Can't say I did," replied Jared. "Why? What did I miss?"

"He lost all of his coins and got his account suspended for swearing repeatedly," laughed Jake. Jared chuckled.

"I doubted he took that well."

"Definitely not," sniggered Jake. Jared took his chemistry book out of his rucksack and flipped to the wordsearch he was supposed to have finished for homework that he needed to do. Jake continued to glance at his phone as Jared began to circle words. 

 

  Jared noticed the awkward silence at lunch as he sat at a circular table with his friends at lunch time. Felicia was flipping through a book and Matt was eating hurriedly, neither rambling as per usual. "How was gym?" Jake asked softly. 

"What do you think?" puffed Felicia. "A waste of time, as usual."

"Makes sense," shrugged Jared.

"I need to head to art," Felicia muttered, standing up and flinging her rucksack onto her shoulder. Jared nodded and waved to her as Matt continued to shove fries into his mouth. 

"What's up?" Jake asked quietly. "What was that?"

"What do you mean?" Matt asked innocently.

"You and Felicia, you barely said a word," flared Jake. 

"Yeah, she uh... she doesn't like me that much these days," Matt chuckled uncomfortably. "We got into an argument in Spanish."

"What happened?" Jake asked as Jared turned his attention to the banana cake that he had for dessert. 

"We've been working on this project for the semester on Spanish schools that we need to present before Thanksgiving and, uh... I kinda lost the USB drive that we put all our work on," sighed Matt. "I told her that I'd re-do it tonight, but she got pissed and claimed I didn't take it seriously. I told her that was horseshit and that she had no right to be mad at me as I had done all of the work as she didn't have a computer at home and we argued about why I didn't ask her to help and now she thinks I'm trying to make us fail."

"Dramatic," muttered Jake. Matt nodded. 

 

  Jared shuffled to the auditorium alone at the end of the day. He slumped onto a chair in the corner of the room and took out his script. As recommended, he had highlighted all of his lines with a green highlighter and had written 'J. Padalecki' on the top in sharpie, however, he hadn't taken much time to read through the scenes as he had other homework to do. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Amanda sat beside Alona and Megalyn two rows behind him, but he could not see Ruth anywhere near her. 

 

  When he arrived, Mr. Johnson had everyone sit around a table on the stage. Jared soon noticed that there were half the people that there were last time. He smiled at Amanda, but didn't attempt to sit beside her and her friends. Instead, he sat at the end of the table, beside a junior he didn't know who was deep in conversation with Rich, who Amanda kept glancing over to. Jared saw Pellegrino with Jeffery and Ackles opposite Mr. Johnson, who was talking to a girl Jared didn't recognise. Jared watched Ackles sip his water, but turned his attention to the opening door as Ackles glanced in his direction. Jared smiled as Ruth shuffled in late. She sat beside him and glanced up at the clock over them. 

 

  Jared sat on the wall outside the entrance of the school after the rehearsal had finished to wait for his mother to arrive. He was cold and he was itching to go home and have a snack, but he had no idea how long it would take for his mother to arrive as she had been dropping Meg off at her dance class. He took his water bottle out of his rucksack and sipped it as he felt someone pat has back. "Uh... hello?" Jared murmured awkwardly, glancing over his shoulder to see Jeffery staring at him. Jared cocked his head curiously. 

"Have you seen a girl with brown hair on a blue bike?" Jeffrey asked.

"Uh... no," Jared replied. "Why?"

"No reason," shrugged Jeffrey. Jared nodded and glanced down at his phone. 

"There you are," came a call from the school's door. Jared glanced over his shoulder again to see Ackles approaching them. He had taken off his blue checked shirt and tied it around his waist, allowing Jared to see the dark green t-shirt that hugged his biceps tightly. "I thought we were going straight away?" Ackles asked. 

"We were," sighed Jeffrey. "But my cousin has gone missing."

"She's probably gone off with some of her friends," shrugged Ackles.

"I know, but I'm still responsible for getting her back. Will you wait a sec while I call my aunt?" 

"Sure." Jeffrey grinned and strode around the corner while Ackles sat on the wall beside Jared. Jared bit his lip and turned his attention to his feet. "Hey," Ackles said uncomfortably, running a hand through his hair. Jared nodded and shifted slightly to his left, further away from Ackles. "How's it going?" Ackles asked. Jared shrugged silently. "What're you doing?" Ackles questioned. "Are you skipping detention or something?"

"No," Jared replied shortly.

"So, what are you doing?"

"Waiting for my ride," shrugged Jared. Ackles nodded.

"How was your Halloween?" he asked.

"Not awful." 

"That's something, I guess," Ackles chuckled. "I went trick-o-treating with my little cousin and he threw up on one of the porches, so that wasn't a fun time."

"I can't imagine it would be," mumbled Jared. 

"When's your ride supposed to be here?" Ackles questioned, checking his watch.

"I dunno," Jared replied. "My sister's the priority and I just have to wait."

"I feel ya, buddy," laughed Ackles. "My little sister does competitive horse riding on a Saturday so I'm left to fend for myself." Jared nodded shortly. Ackles glanced over his shoulder, probably hoping Jeffrey would reappear. Jared inhaled sharply through his nose. He felt even more uncomfortable than he had when Ackles had sat down as the older boy began to whistle. "Do you like football?" Ackles asked.

"Uh... I guess," Jared murmured. 

"Who's your team?" Ackles asked, running a hand through his hair. 

"Uh... the cowboys," Jared shrugged.

"Mine too," Ackles said, smirking. "Are you watching the game on Friday?"

"Probably," Jared mumbled. 

"My uncle and cousins are coming over," Jensen said. "My dad always likes having a crowd over for atmosphere, you know?" Jared nodded shortly. Jensen glanced over his shoulder as he heard the door slam.

"All good, she's gone to a friend's house," Jeffrey said, approaching them. Ackles nodded.

"See you around, I guess," he told Jared, who nodded in response.

- - - - -

Jared next saw Ackles during seventh period the following day. He had left his physics class with a list of documents his teacher wanted the office staff to print off for her and was walking downstairs, when Pellegrino and Jeffrey came rushing up, pushing Jared rudely aside. Jared rolled his eyes and lightly rubbed his arm, where Jeffrey had pushed him, as Rich and Jensen jogged towards him. "Hey, you, kid," Rich said, crossing his arms. "Have you seen two tall guys running around like small children?"

"Uh, yeah," Jared muttered. "They rushed downstairs and I think they went towards the languages corridor."

"Thanks," Rich said brightly. Ackles smiled at Jared and Jared couldn't help but give him a small smile in return. "Come on," Rich told Ackles. 

"D-Do I want to know what's going on?" Jared chuckled quietly. Ackles laughed.

"No, you really don't," he replied. Jared nodded and watched as Ackles and Rich bounded downstairs and took the opposite turning to the pair. 

 

  Jared saw Ackles and Jeffrey padding across the parking lot through the window of his physics classroom once he returned to his seat. He was sat alone at the back of the class and dutifully took down his notes, occasionally permitting himself to glance out of the window at where Ackles and Jeffrey were now prancing towards the entrance of the school, but never actually entering. Ackles laughed enthusiastically at something, scrunching up his face as he did so, and Jared couldn't help but smile at the sight before he tore his eyes away.

- - - - -

Jared had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch on Friday and a packet of smoky bacon crisps. He was looking forward to eating them as he marched out of his history class when he felt someone hit his chest. "Where are you headed?" Ruth asked him, gripping his polo shirt.

"Uh... lunch," Jared replied. Jake snorted. 

"We've got rehearsals, remember?" huffed Ruth. Jared groaned. He had in fact no remembered why his mother had pre-prepared his lunch and had just accepted the sandwich. Fortunately, he had spent the last few days studying for a geography test and finishing math homework, so his script had not left his rucksack.

"Honestly, no," he said sheepishly. Ruth snorted. "Could you tell Matt I won't be at lunch?" he asked Jake, who nodded. 

"Sure," he shrugged. "Have fun, Oliver Twist." Jared rolled his eyes and followed Ruth through the students rushing towards the canteen. 

"Have you seen Amanda?" Jared asked.

"No," Ruth shrugged. "I'm sure she's fine. She'd die before missing a chance to kiss Rich's ass." Jared snorted. 

 

  Mr. Johnson decided he wanted to read through the entire play in order. There were only two actors in the first scene, so Jared and Ruth could sit on the plastic chairs that were set up as an audience to eat their lunch. Ruth had a baguette filled with ham, cheese and lettuce that was so full the salad was falling out as she ate. Jared took his water bottle out of his rucksack as he saw Jeffrey and Ackles approaching them. "Hey, Ruthie, are you after school with Mr. James today?" Jeffrey asked her, sitting on the row behind them. Ruth nodded.

"Yeah, are you?" she asked.

"Well, I'm supposed to be, but there's this slasher fic on in the cinema today and my buddy got me a fake ID, so, I was hoping you'd cover for me," Jeffrey replied. 

"What?"

"Y'know, just tell him I went to the bathroom or something," sighed Jeffrey. "I'll pay you in M&Ms tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" scoffed Ruth.

"Fine, Monday," huffed Jeffrey.

"Alright," shrugged Ruth.

"Can I have some M&Ms?" piped up Ackles, taking his sandwich out of his rucksack and biting into it. 

"No," Jeffrey replied, as if it was the most ludicrous question he had ever heard. Ackles stuck out his bottom lip and bit into his sandwich again. Jeffrey smiled at Ruth, before he strode to the front of the room, where he was instructed to stand beside Pellegrino and a girl called Samantha next to the side of the stage, waiting for his cue. 

"Have you learnt any of the scenes, yet?" Ackles asked. 

"No," Ruth replied. "I've barely even looked at it, to be honest."

"Fair enough," Ackles chuckled. "I think I have my first scene memorised, but I'm not certain."

"There's loads of time," shrugged Ruth. Ackles nodded. 

"What about you?" he asked Jared. "Have you learnt anything?"

"Jared hasn't taken the script out of his bag yet," snorted Ruth.

"That's not true," muttered Jared, feeling his cheeks flush pink. He knew he hadn't been putting in much effort, but he didn't need Ackles to know that, he needed him to think Jared took his performance as his brother seriously. "I-I highlighted stuff and read a bit," he murmured. 

"It's fine," shrugged Ackles carelessly. "As she said, we've got time." He sighed. "Do you think we'll have to read today or do you think Jeff'll be so bad he'll take up the entire session." 

"I'm more interested in Pellegrino's scene," said Ruth.

"Apparently he's going method," snorted Ackles. "He's going to act like a stuck up rich dick until December."

"He would, too," laughed Ruth.

"It doesn't bode well for me," muttered Ackles. "He keeps calling me a bad son and threatening to whoop my ass." Ruth snorted. 

"Is uh... is Jeffrey doing that too?" Jared asked. Ackles laughed.

"No, he'd never take anything that seriously," he said. He paused. "Not that he'd want to mess it up for anyone else," he added. "He just wants to have fun and pretending to be a debt-ridden father of eight from the sixties isn't that." Ruth snorted. Jared nodded and ate some more of his sandwich. 

 

 Jared only had to do one scene before the bell sounded for sixth period. He was speaking opposite a senior, who was playing his mother. He kept his eyes on his script as he read what he would describe as a poem before they were ushered off the stage. He threw his script into his rucksack and shuffled out of the auditorium as the bell finished ringing. He smiled at the senior who he had been acting with, but she didn't appear to notice him. "What have you got now?" he heard Ruth ask behind him. He glanced over his shoulder and saw her staring at him expectantly. 

"Uh... English," he replied. 

"Damn it," sighed Ruth. "I haven't finished my essay yet." 

"I'm sure you can come up with some sort of excuse," shrugged Jared. Ruth nodded. She nodded at Ackles and Jeffrey, who shuffled past them, and the pair waved back at them. 

- - - - -

Mr. Johnson decided he wanted to run the play backwards on Wednesday, so Jared found himself on stage with Alona and Ackles for most of the hour. The others seemed bored in the audience and Jared hoped that his performance was not the reason for that and that they just wanted to go home. He had read and re-read his lines on Monday evening, but he still couldn't read it without looking at the script. Both Ackles and Alona appeared to be more confident than he was, so he tried to be as sure of himself as possible when he read his lines, but it was harder than he had expected with everyone staring at him. Ackles smiled encouragingly as he continued to read, but he felt slightly as if the older boy was mocking him.

Once they had finished their scene to Mr. Johnson's standards, Jared shuffled back to his seat as Pellegrino and the girl playing his wife strode onto the stage. Jared sipped his water from his water bottle and smiled at Ruth, who was sat beside him, on her phone. Jared frowned as he felt Ackles slap his shoulder as the boy sat on the chair behind him. "You did good, man," Ackles told him.

"Uh... thanks," Jared muttered, unsure how to feel. "You too."

"Thanks, buddy," Ackles said, grinning. Jared couldn't help but smile back at him. Ackles rubbed the back of his neck and threw his rucksack over his shoulder. "Hey, Ruthie, what time is it?" he asked.

"Ten past," Ruth replied, not looking up from her phone. Ackles nodded and ruffled Jared's hair, before he strode towards where Jeffrey, Rich, Amanda and Meg were sat. "You were good," Ruth said. Jared glanced over at her and smiled.

"Oh...um... thanks," Jared replied sheepishly. Ruth nodded.

 

  Ruth jogged ahead of Jared when they left the auditorium to meet some of her friends, so Jared padded alone towards the entrance of the school. He took his phone out of his pocket as he felt someone slap his arm. Jared spun around and saw Ackles smiling at him. "Hey, Jay," he said. "Are you doing anything, like, right now?" 

"Uh... I'm walking to the parking lot," Jared murmured. Ackles chuckled. 

"Do you have any immediate plans?" he questioned.

"I dunno," Jared muttered. 

"Do you want to go for food?" Ackles asked.

"Huh?" Jared questioned, unsure if he was being tricked.

"Well, y'know, we're supposed to be best friends so it wouldn't hurt to get to know each other," shrugged Ackles. "Besides, there's this mall not far from my house with a little food court that serves really good burgers. You have to like them." Jared cocked his head as he saw Jeffrey and Pellegrino approaching. He was unsure exactly what Ackles was asking him as he didn't specify if Jared would be accompanying him and his friends or if it would just be the pair of them. 

"I'm heading off, Ackles," Pellegrino said. "What are you doing with the sophomore?"

"Just talking," shrugged Ackles. "I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"

"No," laughed Pellegrino. "I'm off to a concert." Ackles nodded as Jared glanced down at his phone. Ackles waved to Jeffrey, before the pair padded away and he turned his attention back to Jared. 

"So, you want to go?" Ackles asked, smiling at him.

"Uh... sorry... I can't," Jared murmured. "My brother's waiting for me. Maybe a-another time?"

"Yeah, sure," Ackles sighed, sounding deflated. "See you Friday, Jay." Jared nodded and padded towards the parking lot, where he could see Jeff sitting on the bonnet of his car. 

- - - - -

Jared was half asleep when he strode into school the following morning. He had spent hours online with Matt, killing virtual goblins, and woken up early to study for a biology quiz, so he was yawning as he headed towards his homeroom. He frowned when he saw Ruth waiting outside the door, chewing gum and tapping her foot impatiently. " There you are," she cried. Jared nodded shortly. "Do you have any plans for Friday night?" she asked.

"Not currently," Jared shrugged.

"Well, now you do," Ruth said. "Jeffrey Morgan is throwing a party for someone's birthday and I don't want to go alone, so you're coming with me."

"Uh... will he be okay with that? He didn't invite me," Jared muttered.

"Yeah," shrugged Ruth. "He doesn't like too many underclassmen being there but he knows you, so I doubt he'd complain." Jared nodded.

"What time do I need to be there?" he asked.

"Meet me outside the school at seven," Ruth said. "My mother will drive us." Jared nodded and waved at her, before he padded into his homeroom class. Jared collapsed onto his seat and smiled at Jake, who nodded at him.

"Morning," Jared mumbled.

"Hey," Jake said, before he shot his hand up. The homeroom teacher raised an eyebrow at him. "Can I go to Mr. Oliver's room, sir?" Jake asked. The homeroom teacher glanced at his monitor before nodding. "See you, JT," Jake said, before he left he classroom.

 

Jared didn't see Jake at lunch, nor did he see Felicia. He and Matt sat alone at their table and ate their curry. "My streaming account is re-enabled tomorrow," Matt told him. "Do you want to do one of those four hour streams?"

"I can't," Jared replied. "Ruth is peer-pressuring me into going to a party at Jeffrey Morgan's house."

"You got invited to a junior's party?" Matt asked.

"Uh... well, he didn't invite me, but apparently I'm allowed to go," Jared replied. "Do you think I need to take a present?" Matt shook his head and scoffed.

"You have to take me with you," he said. "This will be so much cooler than Jake's basement." Jared shrugged.

- - - - -

Jared told his mother that he was going to a party with Matt to convince her to let him go. She clearly didn't assume that it would be any different to their usual parties and agreed to let Jeff drop his off at Matt's house. Jared wore a smart, green button down shirt and his cleanest pair of jeans and attempted to part his hair neatly before getting into the car. "Okay, JT," huffed Jeff as he sat down. "What's really going on?"

"Huh?" Jared questioned.

"You're clearly not just going to play video games in a basement," sighed Jeff. "You seem nervous. Relax, man, I won't tell mom."

"I-I'm not nervous," Jared lied. "I'm just going to hang out with some friends."

"Friends being who?" Jeff questioned.

"Uh... Matt and Ruth," Jared responded. Jeff chuckled.

"Is that it, JT? Have you got a thing for this girl?" he asked. Jared shook his head, but he could tell Jeff didn't believe him. "Well, good luck," he said. Jared rolled his eyes.

 

  Ruth did not object to Matt's presence when the boys arrived at the school. She was already there, dressed in a black dress and cardigan, her hair looking as vibrant as ever, stood outside a grey car. Jared and Matt clambered into the back and listened to Ruth's mother moan about their neighbours as they drove.

 

 The first thing Jared noticed when they got to Jeffrey's house was the loud music that shook him with the vibrations. Jared followed Ruth into the kitchen, where a group of students were playing beer pong on the wooden table in the corner. Jeffrey himself was stood in the corner, peering into the fridge, and he frowned as Ruth slapped his ass. "What the -" he muttered, turning around to scowl at her. "Oh, it's you," he scoffed. "You came? Hey."

"Hey," Ruth replied. Matt held up his hand in greeting and Jared nodded. 

"You want a drink?" Jeffrey asked, gesturing to the fridge. 

"Yeah," Matt said eagerly. Jeffrey handed him a beer bottle and Matt grinned. 

"I'll have one," Ruth said. Jeffrey nodded and handed her a bottle before taking a swig from the open one of the marble counter beside the fridge. Jeffrey looked expectantly at Jared, who shook his head. Jeffrey shrugged and sipped his beer again. "How many people do you have here?" Ruth questioned.

"I don't know," chuckled Jeffrey. "I thought there'd be about seventy people, but it seems that most of junior year is here. I saw some seniors in the pool earlier and one guy brought his freshman cousin with him, but there's no where near as many people as were at Robbie's last month."

"And you have a bigger house," laughed Ruth. Jeffrey nodded. "Is Robbie here?" Ruth questioned.

"Yeah, last I heard he and Rich were playing darts in the garden," sighed Jeffrey. "I'll meet you out there later, if you want, right now I need to see to some kids who are bathing in my parents' bathroom." Ruth chuckled as he shuffled away. 

"Come on," she said. "Let's go outside." Jared nodded, happy to get away from the ear-piercing music as they strode through the glass door to the patio. 

 

  The patio was cold and there were three seniors sat there, drinking out of red cups. As expected, Robbie and Rich were throwing darts at the board pinned to the side of the shed, so Ruth padded over to them. "Look," Matt chuckled, pointing to the pool. There were three boys laying on their backs, fully clothed, throwing stuffed toys at one another. "My parents would kill me if I let this many people into my house," Matt said. 

"Jeff once threw a party with like twenty people after finals one year and my mother went crazy at him," Jared replied. "My dad had to take me and Meg to the arcade while she yelled at him." Matt snorted. 

"Want to sit down?" he asked, gesturing to the deck chairs facing the pool. Jared shrugged and followed him to the plastic seats. They were cold and not particularly comfortable, but Jared was more than happy to stay where the music was much quieter. Jared watched as two boys he didn't know leaped into the pool. "Where do you think the snacks are?" Matt asked. 

"I dunno," shrugged Jared. "Is there any?"

"I think so," Matt muttered. 

 

  Jared remained on his seat when Matt headed back to the kitchen to look for food. He watched as Robbie, a boy with curly, brown hair Jared didn't know very well, tried to teach Ruth how to throw the darts before there was a tap on his shoulder. Jared glanced over his shoulder to see Ackles sat on the bottom step of the patio and smiling at him. "Hey, Jay," Ackles said.

"Hullo," murmured Jared.

"How'd you sneak in?" Ackles asked.

"Huh?"

"Relax, Jay, I won't tell Jeff," Ackles said. "Come on, how'd you do it?"

"What makes you think I had to sneak in?" Jared huffed.

"You're clearly nervous and don't want to talk to people," shrugged Ackles.

"Maybe I just don't want to talk to you," Jared replied coldly. Ackles frowned.

"Mean," he said.

"I didn't sneak in," Jared puffed. "Ruth asked me to come with her." Ackles nodded. 

"Where's she now?" he asked.

"Over there," shrugged Jared, jerking his head in the direction of where Ruth was watching Rich throw his darts. 

"Not a fan of darts?" Ackles questioned. Jared shrugged. Ackles sighed. "Why don't you want to talk to me?" he asked.

"Cos wherever you are, Pellegrino is near, and I don't need him telling my brother I was here," Jared muttered. 

"Your brother's friends with Pellegrino?" 

"No, they hate each other," Jared replied.

"Yeah, Pellegrino doesn't have many friends," chuckled Ackles.

"Cos he's a dickhead," murmured Jared. Ackles snorted.

"Harsh, Jay," he said. 

"I prefer brutally honest," he said, not looking at Ackles.

"Well, luckily for you, Pellegrino is in Houston for a concert, so he's not going to see you," Ackles told him. Jared smiled. "So, why aren't you playing darts? Are you shit?"

"Uh... no, I'm pretty good," Jared shrugged. "I just wasn't invited."

"Ruth abandoned you?" 

"Uh... kinda. I'm hanging out with my friend Matt, but he's gone to get snacks."

"Ooh, I could do with some snacks," Ackles said. "And another beer. Do you want a beer?"

"I'm good," Jared said. 

"Alright," Ackles said, slapping his shoulder. "I'll be back, don't disappear." Jared nodded and took his phone out of his pocket. 

 

  Matt returned with a handful of Doritos and a second beer while Ackles was still inside. He returned to his seat and offered a Dorito to Jared, who declined, not wanting something from Matt's sweaty palm. "Are there many snacks in there?" Jared questioned. Matt shook his head.

"There were three bowls there, but only one had anything in it, so I just opened some chips from one of the cupboards," he shrugged. "I doubt they'll know it was me." 

"Yeah, I guess Jeffrey has enough to worry about," said Jared. Matt nodded and stuffed three Doritos into his mouth. 

 

  Jared and Matt were watching two girls throwing a stick for Jeffrey's dog when Ackles returned. He sat on the step behind Jared again and smiled. "Evening, gentlemen," he said. "Having fun?" Jared shrugged. Matt nodded around another mouthful of Doritos. "Have you been inside?" Ackles questioned. "Most people are in the living room... or one of the bedrooms." Matt snorted. Ackles winked at him and Jared rolled his eyes. "Are you going swimming?" Ackles asked.

"No," Matt chuckled. 

"Why would we bring swimming suits to a party?" Jared asked.

"Most people just swim in their boxers," shrugged Ackles. He sipped his beer and rubbed the back of his neck.

"Are you going swimming?" Jared questioned.

"Why, want to see me in my underwear, Jay?" Ackles asked, before winking. Jared shook his head, unable to look at the older boy as he felt himself flush. "Nah, it's too cold," Ackles said. "Besides, I'm not certain that nobody's pissed in there." Matt laughed. 

"That's worrying," Jared mumbled. Ackles chuckled and nodded.

 

  Throughout his conversation with Ackles, Jared noticed that he had bright, green eyes that made you want to stare into them for endless amounts of time and that he had a few faint freckles either side of his nose. He learnt that, unlike Jeffrey and Ruth, he didn't actually frequent detention that much and that he dedicated a lot of his time to watching his sister horse ride. Jared also learnt that Ackles liked beer probably too much at his age and was willing to do practically anything as a dare. He also found that while he wasn't much of an animal lover, Jeffrey's dog loved him and sat on his lap for most of the duration of the conversation, prompting the girls who were playing with him to sit nearby and join in. What Jared was pleasantly surprised to find was that Ackles was not at all what he expected him to be. He was not rude nor did he think he  was better than Jared just because he was older than him and he did not have Pellegrino's ego. Jared found it strange that such a nice, funny person would be friend with Pellegrino in the first place. He also found that he struggled not to hold onto every word and that he didn't mind when he ruffled Jared's hair when he stood up. "I'm going to get another beer," he announced. "Does anyone want anything?"

"I'm good," Matt said. 

"No thanks," murmured Jared. Ackles shrugged and plodded back into the house, seemingly unaware of the dog following him. "Hey, where did Ruth go?" he asked, jerking his head in the direction of the shed, where Rich and Ruth were no longer playing darts. Robbie was playing with two other girls Jared didn't know. 

"I dunno," muttered Matt. 

 

  Jared ventured into the kitchen to in search of salted peanuts to quench Matt’s hunger not long after Ackles disappeared. He nodded at Jeffrey, who was helping an obviously drunk boy down the stairs before he opened one of the cupboards. After deciding that there were no peanuts there, he turned to open the cupboard opposite it. However, two figures were standing in the way. It did not take Jared long to recognise Ackles and the his companion as one of the girls who had been petting the dog earlier. Jared did a double take when he noticed that the pair were passionately kissing. Her arms were wrapped around his neck and his hands were on her waist. One was sneaking under her skirt, but she didn’t seem to be complaining. Jared frowned. He felt a pang in his stomach as he watched Ackles rub his hand along her arm. Jared shook his head as a saddening feeling filled him as he continued to watch. Jared didn’t know why he felt sad; he didn’t know the girl well enough to be jealous and while he wouldn’t argue that she wasn’t conventionally attractive, he had no interest in kissing her. Nevertheless, Jared decided to give up on his hunt for peanuts and just picked up the bag of raisins from the counter to take to Matt. 

 

  Jared don’t know why, but he didn’t feel like talking to Ackles when he joined them outside again. The girls and the dog had gone further down the garden, leaving Jared and Matt to discuss their hatred for gym. “Heya, buddies,” Ackles said as he returned. Jared nodded but didn’t speak to him. 

 

  Ackles left to play beer pong with Jeffrey before Ruth returned. Her hair was wet and she was wearing a jumper that obviously wasn’t hers, but Jared was too tired to question it. “You ready to go?” Ruth asked them. “My mother can be here in ten.”

”Sure,” Jared said.

”Aw, I wanted another beer,” moped Matt. Ruth chortled. “Did you go swimming?” he asked her. 

“No,” Ruth muttered. “Rich pushed me into the bath while we were trying help Ty get off the floor.”

“Why was Ty on the floor?” Matt asked.

”He’d drank too much and was puking into the toilet,” shrugged Ruth. “Now come on, let’s go.”

 

  Jared was more than ready to go to sleep when he returned home. His mother has gone to bed already, but his father was in the living room, watching snooker on TV. “Hey, JT,” Mr. Padalecki said as he strode in. “How was it?”

“Not bad,” shrugged Jared.

”Was Jake there?”

”No, he had other plans.”

”Were many people there?”

”No,” Jared lied. Mr. Padalecki nodded. 

“Do you want to watch this with me?” he asked. “USA is two points up.” 

“No thanks,” Jared replied. “I need a nap.” Mr. Padalecki snorted and let Jared rush upstairs to bed. 

Chapter Text

 Jared saw Ackles in the science corridor the following morning, but pretended he didn't see the older boy wave to him. Matt, on the other hand, waved back enthusiastically. Jared rolled his eyes. "What's up with you?" Matt questioned as they turned the corner to the math corridor. "Did he do something?" Jared sighed and shook his head. He knew he was stupid, but he was still struggling to work out why it felt so wrong to watch Ackles kiss that girl and now wasn't the time to open that can of worms to Matt.

"I just don't need to talk to him," shrugged Jared. "I'll see him on Wednesday."

"But he's cool, Jared," Matt said. "Like, really cool. He plays baseball and he's like, super popular."

"So? Do you not remember his dick head friends? They're good at sports and they're popular, but they're still dicks," huffed Jared.

"True, but he's not them, is he?"

"Don't try to be clever, you're just using Ackles for more party invitations," scoffed Jared.

"And you're trying to act as if all jocks are the same," said Matt. "Honestly, I expected more from you." Jared rolled his eyes. 

 

  Jared finished his math problems easily and spent the rest of the lesson contemplating what he would say when he saw Ackles on Wednesday. He wondered if he would be offended Jared didn't greet him, but he supposed Ackles must see so many people he wouldn't remember. He wondered if they'd have time to have a social conversation as they needed to rehearse anyway. Jared shook his head and glanced up at the clock, itching for the lesson to be over so he could head to lunch. 

 

Once again, Jared did not see Jake at lunch. He hadn't seen him in homeroom either and Jared was beginning to wonder what was going on. However, he found that he had more to worry about when Ruth slumped onto the seat opposite him, grimacing. "You okay there?" Matt asked, using a plastic fork to remove the beans from his jacket potato. "You look a little down." Ruth scoffed. Matt shrugged and Jared smiled kindly at her. 

"How was math?" he asked.

"Bloody awful," moaned Ruth. "I swear my teacher hates me."

"You think most teachers hate you," noted Jared.

"They do!" cried Ruth. "Just because I don't do homework doesn't make me a serial baby murderer or something."

"Thank you!" exclaimed Matt. "See? She gets it! Homework is not the most important thing in the world." Ruth nodded knowingly. Jared rolled his eyes and kept his head down as he saw Pellegrino, Ackles and Jeffrey enter the canteen. Matt raised an eyebrow at him, but Jared filled his mouth with mashed potatoes so he couldn't say anything. Jared watched as Pellegrino approached a girl beside the door and thought he was safe, before he saw Jeffrey and Ackles headed right for them. Both were covered in sweat and Ackles looked particularly flushed. Jared didn't know why, but his stomach felt queasy as Ackles winked at him before sitting beside Ruth. Jeffrey stole a chair from the table beside them and placed it between Matt and Ruth, careful not to touch Matt's food. "Um... hello," Matt said awkwardly. 

"Did you two forget to shower after gym or something?" Ruth asked. Jared snorted. 

"I'm offended," Ackles said. 

"Nah," shrugged Jeffrey. "We just couldn't be arsed for English." Ruth nodded knowingly as Jared stuffed his mouth with mashed potatoes again. He was certain Ackles was watching him as he chewed, but he didn't need to know for sure, so he didn't glance in his direction while Ruth began conversation with Jeffrey. 

"What do we have next?" Ruth asked Jared.

"Geography," he replied weakly, cutting up his grilled chicken.

"Sure," Ruth told Jeffrey.

"You coming?" he asked Ackles, who shook his head.

"I've got wood shop, if I miss, I die," he said. 

"Where are you going?" Matt asked, but nobody responded. Ruth and Jeffrey left the canteen hurriedly while Jared ate his chicken. Ackles stood up and, for a brief moment, Jared thought he was about to leave also, but instead he just returned Jeffrey's chair to its original spot and took Ruth's vacant chair opposite Jared. Matt smiled weakly at him as Ackles drummed his fingers against the table. He shifted slightly so his leg was pressed against Jared's, who froze.

"How's your week going?" Ackles asked.

”Meh,” shrugged Matt. Jared nodded and ate more of his chicken. 

“That sounds great,” sighed Ackles. “Listen, boys, I’m hungry, so I’m going to get my lunch, but I’ll see you around, yeah?” Jared nodded as Ackles slid off the chair. Jared watched him walk away to join the queue.

”Where do you suppose Jake is?” Matt asked.

“I dunno,” muttered Jared, not yet tearing his eyes from Ackles.

- - - - -

Jared sat between Ruth and Amanda in the front row of the auditorium on Wednesday. They were still waiting for a few students to arrive, so Jared read through his script hurriedly, hoping to memorise as much as he could.

Ruth was drawing spirals on her hand with a green highlighter pen and Amanda was reciting lines under her breath. “Can you shut up?” scoffed Ruth.

“What even are you doing?” tutted Amanda.

“Art.”

“Do you even know any of your lines?”

“No.”

“What’s the point in being in the play if you don’t care about it, then?” exasperated Amanda coldly.

“Because I can no longer be put in detention on Wednesday if I prove I was at an extra-curricular activity, meaning I can ditch last lesson Tuesday and get off scot-free,” chuckled Ruth. “Say what you want about him, but Jeffrey isn’t stupid.”

“That’s ridiculous,” scoffed Amanda.

“You’re more than welcome to bugger off and go back to kissing ass if you want,” shrugged Ruth, turning her attention back to her hand. Amanda huffed and strode to the corner of the stage, where Rich was playing piano to a small crowd.

“I thought you guys were friends?” wondered Jared.

“I wouldn’t say that,” muttered Ruth. “We’ve known each other since elementary school so it’s more of a familiar face sort of thing. Unfortunately, Amanda has this desperate need to be liked and she thinks that Rich and Robbie and their lot like her, but they just like that she praises her.”

“If that’s true, I feel kinda bad,” Jared mumbled. “It must be awful to think you have friends when you don’t.”

“Yeah, well, she brought it on herself.”

“Aren’t you friends with Robbie and his lot?” Jared inquired.

“Not really,” Ruth replied stiffly. “I’m friends with Jeffrey he’s friends with Pellegrino, who’s friends with Rich and it’s not as if I’m praising Jeffrey as if he hung the moon, we just ended up in detention together a lot.” Jared nodded wordlessly. He glanced over at the group, where Amanda and a few others were applauding Rich’s playing.

 

    Jared and Ruth were soon separated when Ruth, Rich and Ty were led to Mr. Kripke’s room to try on costumes, while Jared was ushered onto the stage to perform his first scene with Ackles. Ackles smiled warmly at him as he re-read his lines quickly. “Ready, guys?” Mr. Johnson asked.

“Sure,” murmured Jared.

“Whenever you are, boss,” Ackles replied, smirking. Mr. Johnson chuckled as Jensen began to read.

 

  It was clear to Jared that Ackles had put a lot more work into learning his part than he had. He knew most of his part by memory and when he did need to glance at the script it took him no time at all to figure out what he needed to say. Jared, on the other hand, found himself stumbling over his words although they were on the page in front of him and feeling quite embarrassed as he went into his monologue. Once he had finished, Jared looked up expecting to see signs of disappointment, but Mr. Johnson applauded them and Ackles smiled warmly. “Well done,” Ackles said as they were removed from the stage so Samantha and Amy could read their lines. “You were really good.” Jared rolled his eyes.

“Uh... thanks,” he murmured, not quite meeting Ackles’ eyes. “You were great.” Ackles smiled warmly at him again. Jared felt his ears heat up. He enjoyed being on the receiving end of Ackles’ smiles; they made him feel warm inside and liked.

“So, are you coming to Rich’s on Saturday?” Ackles asked, winking. Jared shook his head.

“Sin-since I don’t know wh-what you’re talking about, I-I’ll have to s-say n-no,” he spluttered. Ackles shrugged.

“It’s fine, we can just sneak you in,” he said, smirking. Jared fought not to roll his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he murmured. “I don’t want to get caught.”

“C’mon man, it’s Rich, what’s the worst that could happen?”

“I could get beaten up,” moaned Jared. Ackles did a double take at that.

“You think my friends would beat you up?” he inquired sharply.

“Have you met Pellegrino? All he does is run about like an ape and pick on kids younger than him,” flared Jared.

“Alright, well, Pellegrino is an extreme example,” muttered Ackles. “We’re not all like that, and he’s not as bad as you think he is, y’know, he has some good qualities too.” Jared scoffed and strode back to his seat. He had hoped that Ackles would return to wherever he had come from, but instead he flopped onto Amanda’s vacant seat. “How’d you find Jeffrey’s party?” he asked quietly.

“Loud,” Jared replied shortly. Ackles laughed; it was warm and it filled Jared’s ears like music.

“Yeah, that’s a pretty good way to describe it,” Ackles chuckled. “Did you have fun?” Jared shrugged, feeling all warmth leaving him at the memory of Ackles kissing the unknown girl. Jared closed his eyes, feeling his stomach tighten as he was confused once again. “Hey, are you okay?” Ackles asked softly, leaning in to speak into Jared’s ear. Jared froze. Ackles draped his arm around Jared’s shoulder and rubbed his hand along Jared’s arm. Jared felt as if all of his nerves were on fire under Ackles’ touch and he didn’t want him to move, but at the same time he felt uncomfortably confused.

“I-I’m fine,” Jared rasped out, his mouth feeling particularly dry as he willed himself to look up at the boy he barely knew.

“Good, good,” Ackles said softly. “You know, it’s cool if you don’t want to come on Saturday, I won’t force you.” Jared nodded.

- - - - -

Jared was half asleep when he wandered into school the following morning. The autumn breeze was blowing leaves and his untied shoelaces around his ankles and he could still taste his toothpaste as he rushed into the building. He ran a hand through his hair as he approached his homeroom and ended up rushing straight into someone’s chest. “Ouch,” muttered the person.

“Shit, sorry,” Jared said. He side-stepped to see Jeffrey glaring at him.

“Watch it, Jay,” he said. “Not cool.” Jared nodded.

“Sorry,” he repeated, before walking past Jeffrey.

“Hey,” he heard a familiar voice called. Jared spun around to see Ackles standing beside Jeffrey, a smirk on his lips.

“Yeah?” Jared sighed.

“Uh... your shirt’s on backwards,” Ackles said sheepishly. Jared glanced down and realised that he was indeed wearing his polo shirt backwards.

“Oh, uh... thanks,” he mumbled. Jeffrey and Ackles chuckled before turning away and walking around the corner. Jared huffed and rushed down the corridor to the nearest bathroom so he could readjust his shirt before he got to homeroom.

 

Jake had already disappeared by the time that Jared arrived, not that Jared was surprised. “Where have you been Mr. Padalecki?” droned the homeroom teacher as Jared walked in. Jared smiled at him.

“Sorry, traffic was bad,” he lied. The man nodded and turned his attention back to his monitor as Jared returned to his seat.

“Has anyone seen Morgan Stump?” the homeroom teacher asked. Jared shook his head, unsure who the boy was, and took out his English essay so he could re-read it before the bell sounded.

 

  Jared and Matt had Spanish first, which Jared was not looking forward to. He was aware that they had a vocabulary test, but with homework for history, an essay for English, an essay for physics and lines to learn for the play, Jared hadn’t had much time to study. Matt, on the other hand, was perfectly relaxed even though he hadn’t looked at his Spanish textbook once since their last lesson. Jared didn’t understand how he thought ‘winging it’ was going to work, but he spent the introduction to the lesson flicking through his book instead of questioning Matt.

- - - - -

Jared was supposed to get his Spanish results on Friday afternoon. He had told Ruth about it while they were waiting for the auditorium to open at lunch and she had told him just to relax. Jared tried to take her advice, reasoning that he couldn’t change his mark now, but he still felt anxious.

 

Mr. Johnson decided to run the play over from the beginning, so Jared could spend the first few scenes sat backstage with Ruth, listening to Samantha singing. Jared saw Ackles, Jeffrey and Pellegrino not far from where they were, also waiting to go on stage. Ackles and Pellegrino were laughing heartily and Jared felt himself smile before he realised what he was doing. Jared shook his head and turned his attention back to his script. “Y’know, not yet have I once gotten to read a single line,” huffed Ruth quietly. “Seems like a waste of my time, really.” Jared shrugged. He wanted to be able to recite his first scene by memory, but it wasn’t going very well. “Are you excited to have to sing?” Ruth asked him. Jared shook his head certainly, causing Ruth to chuckle. Jared scratched the side of his head as he read across the page, mumbling the words under his breath, earning him a dramatic eye roll from Ruth. “Y’know, sometimes you’re worse than Amanda,” she puffed.

“I don’t want to mess up,” Jared shrugged. “My parents want to come and see this show and I want it to be good.”

“I’m sure your parents will tell you they loved it anyway,” said Ruth.

“Yeah, probably,” sighed Jared. “But I want them to mean it.”

 

  Jared got through his scene with his fictional mother more confidently than he had expected. He managed to recite the limerick well and didn’t speak too quietly. Once he had finished, he hurried off stage to wait in the wings with Ruth, who was using a red sharpie to draw across her hand. “Well done,” she said, not looking at him. Jared raised an eyebrow at her. “I can practically hear your judgement, y’know,” muttered Ruth.

“Sorry,” Jared said quickly. “But, um... how can you praise something you couldn’t see?”

“I heard you,” shrugged Ruth. “You’re getting better.”

“You were great,” said Ackles from behind him. Jared widened his eyes and spun around, smiling stupidly as Ackles nodded at him. “Jeffrey wants you,” he told Ruth, who huffed and marched towards him as Jeffrey put on his cap, ready to go on stage. “How’re things?” Ackles asked. Jared shrugged. He rolled his script up in his hand and licked his bottom lip. “What’cha got next?” Ackles questioned.

“Spanish,” Jared groaned.

“Is that a bad thing?” chuckled Ackles. Jared exhaled sharply.

“Not usually,” he sighed. “But there was this quiz I didn’t study for and I know I didn’t study for it so I’ve probably done terribly and I really don’t need to know how badly right now because if it’s too badly people will laugh at me and I hate it when people laugh at me.” Ackles nodded. “Sorry, I tangent sometimes,” muttered Jared.

“Don’t apologise,” said Ackles. “It’s a nice change o’ pace, y’know, most of the time I can barely get two words out of you.” Jared flushed and shifted awkwardly. “Hey, if you don’t want to go to Spanish, do you want to go get some food?”

“Won’t the staff know it’s not our lunch period?”

“Not if we go off campus,” Ackles said, before winking dramatically. Jared laughed, before he realised that he was serious.

“Oh, uh... I dunno,” he said. “I-I’ve never ditched before.”

“It’s only two classes, right?” shrugged Ackles. “What’ll it hurt? Believe you me, the burgers are worth it.”

“I-If you say so,” Jared said shakily. Ackles beamed at him.

 

Once Mr. Johnson dismissed them, Jared forced his crumpled script into his rucksack and followed Ruth out of the door. They sat on the wall outside the auditorium and waited. Jared saw Amanda walk by, tailing Rich with some other girl and he felt slightly bad for her, remembering what Ruth had said. He yawned and glanced at his watch as Pellegrino, Jeffrey and Ackles left the building. “Come on,” Pellegrino said gruffly. “We don’t have long.” Jared followed Ruth to the parking lot and to Pellegrino’s car. It was older than Jeff’s and clearly he didn’t take as good care of it, but Jared kept his thoughts to himself and scrambled into the back with Ruth and Ackles. “I’m not your bloody chauffeur,” grunted Pellegrino. “I can get you there, but I’m not taking you home.”

 “We know, Marky, we know,” Jeffrey said. Pellegrino glowered at him.

“Thanks, man,” Ackles said as Pellegrino started the car.

“Well, y’know, I’m a fucking saint,” he said. Ackles glanced at Jared and rolled his eyes.

 

   Pellegrino did not stop in the parking lot of the mall, deciding to stop in the bus lane outside it instead. Jared hopped out eagerly, staying close to Ackles as they wandered down the pavement, towards the entrance. Ruth and Jeffrey turned into the elevator without saying a word, but Ackles slung his arm over Jared’s shoulders and led him around the corner. Jared stared at him and smiled slightly. “You hungry?” Ackles asked.

“I guess,” shrugged Jared.

“What did you have for lunch?” Ackles questioned.

“Peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” replied Jared.

“What kind of jelly?”

“Blackcurrant.”  

“Ooh, that’s good,” Ackles said, licking his lips. Jared snorted.

“What did you have?” he asked.

“BLT,” shrugged Ackles, “with this weird mayo I didn’t really like.” Jared nodded as Ackles steered him around another corner. Ackles released his grip as they strode onto an escalator. Jared wiped some crumbs from his shirt before he noticed that his companion was several steps ahead of him.

“Hey, Ackles! Ackles!” Jared called. “Wait up!” Ackles glanced over his shoulder and chuckled, pausing where he was so Jared could catch up. Once Jared was only one step behind him, Ackles ruffled his hair and sniggered.

“‘Ackles’?” he questioned. “What are you, my coach? Jensen’s fine, Jay.”

“Uh... yes, sir,” Jared said. Jensen chuckled.

 

 Jared had to agree with Jensen when he claimed that the burgers at the mall were amazing. Jared couldn’t work out what the burger sauce was, but he liked it nonetheless. “I could write sonnets about this cheese,” Jensen announced, using a red napkin to wipe his face. Jared chuckled.

“I’d love to hear them,” he said.

“Too bad you’re not the cheese,” Jensen said, sticking his tongue out at him. Jared rolled his eyes and leant over to steal one of Jensen’s fries. Jensen frowned, but did not stop him. “Now that’s just plain rude,” he said as Jared dipped the fry into the ketchup. Jared snorted.

“Hey, um... how do you learn your lines so well?” he asked.

“Practice,” Jensen shrugged.

“Is that all?” Jared asked. He had been hoping that Jensen would have had some insight on how learning scripts worked.

“Yeah, pretty much,” sighed Jensen.

“Have you ever done a school play before?”

“Not since elementary school,” shrugged Jensen.

“Why’d you decide to do this one?”

“Honestly, I was failing art, badly, so I was told if I swapped to drama and did the play it would make up for the project I’d missed early this semester,” sighed Jensen, “not to say that talking to ya and Ruth isn’t fun.” Jared nodded. “I take it you haven’t done a play before?”

“Um... I also did in elementary school,” muttered Jared.

“So, why’d you decide to do this one?”

“My drama teacher told me I’d be good at it and my mother was telling me to join a club, so I auditioned,” replied Jared. “Nothing special.”

“You’re really talented,” Jensen told him. Jared flushed. “Seriously, I know you don’t think so cos you still read from the script, but you’re a natural, Jay.” Jared smiled.

“Thanks,” he muttered. “You’re great.”

“So you keep saying,” chuckled Jensen.

“So, do you have to buy a cute outfit for the party tomorrow or are we here just for food?” Jared questioned. He felt something flutter in his chest as Jensen snorted at his joke.

“Just for the food, buddy,” Jensen said. “I could turn up in SpongeBob boxers and they’d all be too drunk to notice, would be a waste of cash.”

“You’d hope they wouldn’t notice your underwear cos you’re wearing pants,” Jared said dryly. Jensen sniggered.

“You’ve been holding out on me, Jay,” Jensen tutted. “You’re a funny guy.” Jared flushed. “So, your folks usually give you a ride home, right?” Jensen asked.

“Uh... either that or my brother, yeah.”

“You should probably give them an excuse to why you’re not there.”

“We aren’t going back to school?” Jared questioned, narrowing his eyes.

“Nah, my house isn’t too far from here,” Jensen shrugged. “It’ll be easier than sneaking back. I’m sure my mother wouldn’t mind giving you a lift home if you wanted.”

“Oh, uh, thanks.”

 

After Jared had texted Jeff to tell him to head home without him as he had a costume fitting after school and a friend would drop him home, he dropped his phone into his rucksack and followed Jensen out of the mall. They picked up every free sample they could on their way out, from blueberry muffins to cheesy bread, before the cold air hit Jared’s face. “I wish I brought a coat,” he muttered irritably. Jensen laughed and ruffled his hair.

 

  Jared was curious to see what Jensen’s room was like, but it became apparent that Jensen wasn’t about to show him. When they arrived at Jensen’s house, that was genuinely less than seven minutes from the mall, he opened the side gate and led Jared into the shed. It was a nice building with baby blue walls and a royal red couch. There was an electric drum kit in the corner and a TV on the wall opposite the couch. Several baseball and soccer trophies were displayed on a shelf in the corner and there was a dog’s bed underneath.”So, what are we going to do?” Jared asked, as he sat down on Jensen’s couch.

“Well, unfortunately, my brilliant video games collection is in the house, so we’ll have to do something else,” sighed Jensen. Before Jared could ask why they were not also in the house, he followed with, “Do you want to run lines?”

“Sure,” Jared shrugged.

 

  Mrs. Ackles dropped Jared off outside his house just after four. Jared blushed as she told him it was nice to meet a new friend of Jensen’s and that he was much more polite than Jeffrey was. Jared thanked her for the ride and rushed into the house.

- - - - -

Jared went to the park with his sister on Saturday morning. It was cold and Jared was uninterested, but his parents were grateful he was willing to keep an eye on Meg, who had been ill all week and was clearly experiencing cabin fever. However, when he returned he was greeted by a glower from his mother and he was confused. “What’s up, Mom?” Jared asked.

“Jared, we’ve received an email from the school saying you were absent for your last two lessons yesterday,” droned Mr Padalecki. “Which surely means that if you weren’t in school for eight period, you weren’t in drama after school.” Jared hung his head, not wanting his eyes to give away his guilt and anxiousness. “Do you not have anything to say for yourself?” questioned Mr Padalecki. Jared remained silent. “Jared, ditching school is one thing, but deliberately lying to us and your brother to hide it is another,” drawled Mr Padalecki.

“What would we have done if you’d been hurt and we didn’t know where you were?” questioned Mrs. Padalecki. Jared shuffled awkwardly.

“Well, you can consider yourself grounded from now until after thanksgiving,” snapped Mr Padalecki. “Tell me, Jared, what made you think this was a good idea?”

“I dunno,” Jared mumbled.

“Really?” questioned Mrs. Padalecki. “You’ve never done anything like this before. What brought this on?” Jared inhaled sharply. Going through his head was a mix of confusion, half-thought out excuses and one word; Jensen. Jared didn’t want to blame Jensen, he knew he made the decision to follow and he didn’t want his parents to hate him.

“I-I had lots of homework and stuff last week and I forgot to study for a Spanish quiz and I knew I did horribly and I was freaking out cos I was worried I’d be laughed at if the teacher announced I got an awful mark, so my friends told me I should just not go and I thought that was better than being humiliated,” Jared babbled. “I thought we’d be back for eighth period and so I could meet Jeff, but that didn’t happen.”

“We heard nothing about Spanish marks, so it can’t have been that bad,” Mrs. Padalecki said kindly.

“Where did you go, Jared?” Mr Padalecki asked.

“We-we went to the mall and then to one of my friends’ houses,” murmured Jared guiltily.

“What friends are these? Matt?” Mrs. Padalecki inquired.

“Kids from the play, you don’t know them.”

“Well, they can’t be great friends if they get you into trouble, can they?” Mr Padalecki scoffed. Jared nodded. “You’ve got detention Monday lunch time, so don’t go missing instead of turning up,” Mr Padalecki told him. Jared nodded again.

- - - - -

Jared sat by Jake in homeroom and watched the second hand tick around the clock as their teacher droned on about a museum he went to over the weekend. Once he had finished, Jake’s hand shot up into the air. “Sir, I need to go,” he announced. A few kids chuckled at his phrasing.

“Alright, Mr Abel, off you go,” sighed the man, before he returned to his seat.

“Bye,” Jake muttered. Jared nodded.

“Anyone in Mr James’ math class needs to head to his room lunch time to collect new calculators,” called the homeroom teacher. “And anyone involved in Mr Kripke’s show needs to head to the auditorium at lunch.” Jared widened his eyes.

 

    Jared was worried. He didn’t want to miss rehearsal and appear as if he wasn’t taking is seriously, but he knew that his father would skin him alive if he got in trouble for ditching detention. Jared thought it over in his head as he skulked towards his English classroom, before he noticed Jensen standing by a locker across the hall. He was talking to Jeffrey and Ty, dressed in a tight polo that brought attention to the muscles of his arm, and Jared felt even more nervous than usual when approaching him. “Hey, Jay,” Jensen said when he spotted him.

“Hullo,” Jared replied. “Do-do you have a minute?” Jensen shrugged and followed Jared around the corner.

“What’s up, Jay?” he asked.

“Did you get a message from school over the weekend?” Jared asked.

“About the ditching, yeah,” sighed Jensen. “Why?”

“I don’t know what to do,” Jared said. “I can’t be in detention and at rehearsal, but if I miss either it won’t go over well.”

“Don’t worry, Jay,” Jensen said calmly. “I’ve learnt a few tricks of the trade over the years, I’ve got you. Just go to the auditorium at lunch, okay?” Jared nodded.

 

Jared sat in the front row nervously biting his fingernails as he waited for Jensen to arrive. Eventually, the older boy walked in with Ty, smirking. “Hullo,” Jared said quickly. Jensen smiled.

“Hey, man,” he said. “You good? Got something interesting for lunch?”

“What do I do now?”

“Huh?” puzzled Jensen.

“You said you knew tricks of the trade, so what do I do?”

“Relax, man, just follow me,” said Jensen. Jared nodded and tailed Jensen to the stage, where Mr Johnson was sweeping the remnants of what looked like confetti.

“Hello, boys, what can I do for you?” he asked.

“Jared and I are supposed to be in detention,” Jensen said, “so we were hoping you could email the office and tell them we’re here instead.”

“What did you do to get put in detention?” Mr Johnson chuckled.

“Jared here was told he had a free period when he hadn’t,” lied Jensen. “He’d forgotten his timetable and took his friend’s word for it.”

“And you?”

“Ditched French,” Jensen shrugged. Mr Johnson laughed.

“I admire your honestly,” he said. “Alright, you guys go and sit down and read your lines, I’ll email the office.”

“Thanks,” Jared said, before padding over to his seat. Jensen followed him and slumped into the seat beside him.

“See, nothing to worry about,” he sighed.

“Are we allowed to swap detention for the play?” Jared asked.

“Yeah, it’s commitment to an extra-curricular or something like that,” replied Jensen. “New policy, can’t say I have an issue.” Jared chuckled. “So, what’ve you got for lunch?”

“I’ve got a ham and cheese roll,” Jared replied, “and a slice of apple pie. What about you?”

“Well, my younger sister put herself in charge of making lunch today, so I’ve got celery sticks, a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich, and a slice of chocolate cake.”

“Sounds nice,” Jared said, opening his rucksack to pull out his sandwich. Jensen shrugged. “Where’s Jeffrey today?” Jared asked.

“Oh, he’s gone to New York for Thanksgiving,” Jensen replied. “He does it every year.” Jared nodded. “Why? Do you like him more than me?”

“Yeah, he’s a great conversationalist,” Jared said dryly. Jensen snorted. “You’re normally with him, that’s all,” Jared shrugged. Jensen nodded. “Hey, can I trade you my slice of pie for you cake?”

“Yeah,” Jensen replied. “That’s fine with me.”

 

Rehearsals ended up going into seventh period, but for the first time they managed to run through the entire play. Jared was quite proud of himself once they finished the final scene to the applause of Mr Johnson and Mr Kripke, before he packed his script away in his bag. “Well done,” Alona said as she walked past him. Jared smiled.

“Thanks,” he muttered. “You were great.” Alona beamed and shuffled by, out of the auditorium.

“Good job, buddy,” Jensen said as he approached Jared’s seat. Jared grinned.

“Thanks, you were amazing, too,” he said. “How you managed to just remember so much is beyond me.” Jensen chuckled.

“You’ll get there,” he shrugged. “Relax.” Jared nodded and pulled his rucksack onto his shoulder as he prepared to leave. “What are you doing after school?” Jensen asked. Jared shrugged. “Do you want to go to the mall again? I could show you around the arcade, if you want?”

“Uh... sorry,” Jared murmured, “my parents grounded me because of the detention thing.” Jensen chuckled.

“No worry, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

- - - - -

Jared and Jeff were actually on time for school on Tuesday morning. It was the last day of the week due to thanksgiving, so neither were enthusiastic. Jeff yawned and waved goodbye to Jared, before marching upstairs to his homeroom while Jared plodded around the corner. He was close to his homeroom when he felt something hit the back of his head. Jared spun around to see a piece of paper crumpled up into a ball on the floor and to find Matt across the hall, waving to him. Jared frowned and padded over him. “Uh... hello,” Jared muttered. “Why are you assaulting me with paper?” Matt snorted as Ruth marched around the corner. 

 “You’re back, then?” Matt said.

“Evidently,” replied Ruth dryly. “Hey, Jay.”

“Hullo.”

“Do you want to go to the cinema with us?” Ruth questioned.

“Sorry, I’m grounded until after thanksgiving,” Jared muttered. “I have to go straight home with my brother after school.”

“No, not after school, now,” said Ruth. “I need to book tickets for a showing on the weekend and I can’t go after school as I’m travelling to DC with my dad.”

“Why don’t you book online?” Jared questioned.

“I don’t have a card and I doubt my parents would,” sighed Ruth. “Besides, these kids in my street gave me cash to buy tickets, so I need to get them. Are you coming or not?”

“No thanks,” Jared muttered. “I was in trouble last time we ditched.”

“When did you ditch school?” Matt asked.

“Friday,” shrugged Ruth. “Come on, it’s the last day, nobody’s going to tell your folks and we’ll be back by lunch for rehearsals.”

“There’s rehearsals today?” Jared puzzled.

“Yeah, at lunch,” shrugged Ruth. “Again.”

“Come on, JT,” groaned Matt. “It’ll be fun.” Jared rolled his eyes, but reluctantly agreed.

 

The school gates were still open, so it was not hard for them to leave. Ruth led them onto a bus to the centre of town and Jared dutifully followed her to the cinema complex. “Hurry up,” she called. Matt rolled his eyes and jogged to catch up with them as they marched past a row of shops to where the cinema was. “You wait here, I’ll be back,” Ruth said. Jared nodded and sat on the green, metal bench as he watched Matt jog towards them.

“Where’s Ruth?” he asked.

“She’s gone to get her stuff,” muttered Jared. “She wants us to wait here.” Matt rolled his eyes and slumped onto the bench beside him.

“So, bad boy, what did you do last time you bunked off?” he asked.

“Got a burger,” shrugged Jared. “Practiced for the play.” Matt rolled his eyes.

“You’re always a dork, aren’t you?”

“I guess,” sighed Jared. “Do you think we’ll actually be back in time for lunch; we were on the bus for almost an hour?”

“We’ll be fine, JT,” Matt sighed.

 

  Ruth decided she wanted to head to Starbucks before they got back to their bus, so Jared waited outside while she and Matt bought their coffees. “You sure you don’t want anything?” Matt asked him uncertainly as they began to plod down the cobblestone street, towards the bus stop. Jared nodded. “It’s good,” Matt told him. Jared shrugged and stuffed his hands in his pockets as they finally reached the bus stop. “When is our bus going to be here?” Matt questioned.

“Give me a second,” grumbled Ruth, standing on her tip toes to read the bus timetable. “Uh... twelve minutes,” she replied, “it won’t be long.” Jared nodded.

“Good,” he said.

“I don’t see why you care so much,” sighed Ruth. “You know we’re headed back to school.”

“He’s a worrisome human,” said Matt.

 

    Jared made it back to school right as the bell sounded for lunch. He rushed through the parking lot and around the corner to join Amanda and her friends, who were waiting for the auditorium to be opened. “Hey, Jared,” Amanda said. Jared smiled at her. “Where were you in drama?”

“Oh, I, uh... I was at the dentist,” Jared lied. “They think I have a cavity.”

“That’s not good,” Amanda stated.

“I know, right,” grumbled Jared.

“You should probably tell the office,” piped up one of Amanda’s friends.

“I’ll go after rehearsal,” Jared lied. Amanda nodded.

 

    Jared spent most of the rehearsal practicing the last scene with Jensen and Alona behind the stage, while Mr. Johnson attempted to go over one of the musical numbers with Pellegrino and his fictional wife. “Do you think they’ll give us toy guns?” Jensen questioned, “because finger guns will not look deadly.” Jared scoffed. “What? It’s a genuine question!” cried Jensen. Jared rolled his eyes.

“Probably,” muttered Alona. “Or something made out of wood maybe.” Jensen nodded.

 

Jared met Jeff at his car after the final bell rung and they drove home rapidly. “Mom’s working late,” Jeff told him, “and I have a job interview, so you’ll be on your own until Dad and Meg get back, okay? Don’t burn the house down.” Jared nodded. He clambered out of the car, waved to Jeff, and let himself into the house. Jared peeled himself an orange  and headed to his room. He began to work on a History essay on his desk as he waited for someone to return. 

 

  Mrs. Padalecki arrived home before anyone else. Jared was laying on his bed, flicking through the pages of his geography textbook when he heard a firm knock on the door. "Hullo?" he called. Mrs. Padalecki threw the door open and frowned at him,

"Where were you today?" she asked.

"What?" Jared asked.

"I've had messages from school asking where you were," Mrs. Padalecki said. "Where were you?"

"I was in school," Jared said, feeling the colour draining from his face. "Ask Jeff." 

"Really?" Mrs. Padalecki asked, pursing her lips.

"Yes," Jared insisted.

"Alright, well, if you were in school, why weren't you in your classes?" Mrs. Padalecki asked. Jared did not reply. 

- - - - -

Jared was grounded for Thanksgiving break and he had had his laptop confiscated so he couldn't play computer games online with Matt, so he dedicated a lot of his time to reading over his lines. By the end of the break, Jared had learnt almost every scene and was considerably proud of himself. 

 

 Mrs. Padalecki gave Jared his laptop back the night before he went back to school so he would be able to do his homework after school, but he was told that he was still grounded until further notice. To top it all off, Jared had been put in detention again.

 

 Jared and Matt plodded to the history corridor after the bell sounded for lunch. Two awkward freshman girls were stood by the door of the second classroom to the right. Jeffrey and Rich were stood in front of them, laughing to one another, and Ruth was sat on the bench behind them, eating a lettuce and ham baguette. There was a boy with an emo-style haircut who wasn't wearing shoes stood behind the bench, which clearly made Ruth uncomfortable. "Okay, in you go," snapped Mr. Singer, turning the corner and crossing his arms over his chest. One of the two girls pushed open the door of his classroom and filed in. Jared glanced at Matt, before the pair followed Rich into the room.

"Holy shit!" exclaimed Jeffrey once he saw them. "You weren't kidding."

"Told ya," Ruth said smugly. Matt raised an eyebrow. 

"Settle down," snapped Mr. Singer. "Pick a piece of paper from the end of your desk and get out a pen or pencil. Since most of you are here due to truanting, I want you to write at least a hundred words about what you would do as a headteacher to stop students truanting. If you cannot complete that within the next forty minutes, do it as homework and bring it to me tomorrow. You can not copy the person beside you."

"Um... are we going to be allowed to get lunch?" Matt asked. "My dad didn't pack me sandwiches."

"If anyone requires school food, I'll get some later." 

"Alright," Matt replied. He led Jared to the desk in front of Jeffrey and Ruth, who had not bothered to pick up a piece of paper. Rich was sitting on a third chair added to the end of the desk by Ruth and was drawing a rabbit on his piece of paper. Jared slumped back on his seat and took his pencil case out of his rucksack. 

"You're actually doing the essay?" scoffed Jeffrey. "Why?"

"It's one hundred words," shrugged Jared. "That's barely anything." 

"And no words is nothing," Jeffrey said. 

"But then I'll have to do it for homework and I have enough to do."

"Man, he isn't going to chase you up for it if you don't get detention again," Rich told him. 

"Oh, okay then," Jared muttered. 

 

  Jared sat in silence and ate his tuna and sweetcorn sandwich, occasionally listening in to Ruth and Jeffrey's conversation about ways to prank math teachers. Both Rich and Matt tried to butt into the conversation at some point, but they weren't as amused by the concept as they were. 

 

 Jared was happy to leave when the bell sounded. He followed Matt out the door and frowned when he felt Jeffrey ruffle his hair. "So, how was your first time in the slammer?" he chuckled.

"Boring," Jared replied. 

"I think that's the point," Jeffrey shrugged. "I take it we won't see you again?" 

"I hope not," murmured Jared. "My mother'd kill me." Matt chuckled. 

"See you around, delinquent," Jeffrey called as he and Rich padded towards the staircase. Jared rolled his eyes and sprinted to his biology class. 

Chapter Text

Jared was on time for homeroom every day that week, which for him and his siblings was an achievement. On Friday, Jared waited in the hallway outside the classroom for his homeroom teacher to arrive with his classmates. The girl in front of him was babbling to her friend about wanting to leave and Jared couldn't say he blamed her. He found Jake towards the front of the line, tapping his foot impatiently. Jared shuffled past the girls, towards him. "Hey, JT," Jake said. "How're you?" 

"Alright," Jared shrugged. "How're things? Have you done that essay for English?"

"Yeah, it was awful." 

"I know, right," muttered Jared. 

 

  A few minutes later, one of the women from the office, Ms. Margot, marched up the corridor towards them. "Your teacher is unable to come in today, students," she told them. "So you need to head to Mrs. Conners' class for homeroom." Jared joined in the groan that sounded from the class. As he turned to walk towards the stairs, he felt Jake tug his sleeve. Jared raised an eyebrow at him.

"Can you tell Mrs. Conners that I need to go to Mr. Oliver's room?" he asked. "Please, JT?"

"Uh... sure," Jared shrugged.

"Thanks," Jake said quickly. "See you around." Jared nodded. 

 

  Jared saw Jake again at lunch. He and Matt were sat at their usual table, eating the sausage and gravy served after Ruth had just left them to meet Jeffrey, when he felt someone ruffle his hair. He turned around to see Jake and Felicia standing there, smiling. Jared smiled back. While he had a few classes with Jake, he hadn't seen Felicia in over a month. "Oh, look who remembered we exist," scoffed Matt. Jake smiled sheepishly. 

"So, do you guys have plans for Friday?" he asked.

"Why?" Matt inquired, narrowing his eyes.

"We-we joined the marching band," Jake said. "And we're playing at the football game, if you want to come."

"It'd be cool if you watched," Felicia said. 

"So, you made fun of me for doing a play, but joined the marching band?" chuckled Jared. Matt laughed. 

"We weren't making fun of you to be malicious," shrugged Felicia. "Just a bit of fun. So, what do you say, are you coming?" 

"I guess," Matt replied.

"Yeah, alright then," Jared said. "But don't expect me to be wearing school colours and cheering or anything." 

"We won't," chuckled Felicia. 

- - - - -

Jared went home to change before the game, deciding his polo shirt and jeans inappropriate. He threw on an old, navy hoody he had inherited from his brother, refusing to wear his bright blue one as it was similar to the school colours, and a pair of charcoal sweat pants. His father agreed to drop him off at school on the way to his shift at the hospital since Jeff, being a member of the football team, had had to remain behind. "Y'know, maybe this will encourage you to try-out for the team next year," Mr. Padalecki muttered. "I know Jeff won't be there any more, but maybe that will be easier for you." Jared snorted.

"No thanks," he said. "I've seen those guys and they're thugs. I'll stick to watching."

"Whatever you say," shrugged Mr. Padalecki. "Remember, I'll be working and Mom's with Meg, so make sure you can get a lift with Jeff or someone's parents." 

"I will," Jared said, before he clambered out of the car.  

 

  Jared found Matt waiting at the entrance of the stadium. He had a blue cap with the school logo on his head and was holding a chocolate bar. "This already sounds louder than I'd like it to be," grumbled Jared. Matt chortled. Jared led him into the stadium and to sit at the back bench. Most of the rows were already filled with excited students, so Jared wasn't expecting a good view of the game. A hush fell over the crowd as the band came out. Jared had no chance of telling where Jake and Felicia were. "Do you know what instruments they play?" Jared asked. 

"Huh?"

"Do you know what instruments Felicia and Jake play?" Jared reiterated. 

"Not at all," replied Matt. "Hey, do you want to go and get some snacks before the game starts?"

"Don't you want to listen to the band?" Jared questioned.

"I'm sure we'll hear them from the parking lot," shrugged Matt. "Besides, it's not like we can see them, anyway. We'll just say they sounded great."

"I guess I could eat." 

"Awesome."

 

  A weedy teenage with glassy, blue eyes and a faint mustache was the only one selling the snacks from a table just outside the stadium. There was a small queue to the table that Jared and Matt joined as they heard the band get slightly louder. Jared couldn't hear it very well, but he wondered if Jake or Felicia were playing the trumpet solos. "Hey, Jay," he heard. Jared frowned and saw Jensen standing beside him, already holding a hot dog and a big cup of soda. "I didn't know you were coming." 

"Well, it seems we have," Jared replied. Jensen chuckled. 

"I won't hold you up," he said. Jared nodded and watched as Jensen walked back towards the stadium. Jared shook his head to stop himself from glancing back at Jensen. 

"What can I get you?" the weedy boy asked. His voice was higher than Jared had expected and he refused to make eye contact. "Uh, a hot dog and a small soda please," Jared said softly. 

 

  Jared found, after he and Matt had bought their snacks, that Jensen had waited just inside the gates for them. Matt raised an eyebrow at him. "Hullo," Jared muttered. Jensen smiled at him and sipped his soda using the long, blue straw. "Band's good, right?"

"Uh, yeah," Jensen replied. "I guess, I dunno, I haven't been paying attention." Jared shrugged. "So, where are y'all sitting?"

"Wherever we can find space," chuckled Matt. Jared nodded.

"Do you wanna come sit with me as Jeffy? There's space on our row." 

"Really?" Matt questioned.

"Yeah, sure?"

"Uh... thanks," Jared muttered. Jensen smiled and led them down to their bench.

 

  Jared sat between Jensen and Matt with Jensen's shoulders rubbing against his for most of the game. Jared found him spending less time trying to find his brother on the pitch and more time thinking about Jensen. Jensen and Jeffrey were clearly very into the game and offered Jared and Matt little attention, but Jared didn't really mind. Occasionally, he'd glance over at the match and attempt to force himself to pay attention, but then Jensen would shift and his attention would be back on Jensen's broad shoulders that were invading his personal space. At one point, Jensen and Jeffrey stood up to cheer and when they sat down, Jensen stumbled and had to grip onto Jared's knee to steady himself. Jared bit his tongue to stop himself letting out a very embarrassing sound and inhaled sharply. Jensen raised an eyebrow at him, but didn't say anything. Jared licked his lips as Jensen cheered again, his eyes wide and a broad smile across his face. 

 

  Jared could not recall much of the game once it had finished, but he knew that their team had won, so he clapped along with everyone else. He sipped his soda as the cheerleaders rushed onto the pitch to congratulate them and the band started playing again. "We're gonna go down to the pitch to see Pellegrino," Jensen said. "You can come too, if you want." 

"Why would we want to see Pellegrino? He's a dick," scoffed Matt. 

"Let's see if we can see Jake or Felicia anyway," shrugged Jared, wanting to spend more time with Jensen. Matt nodded. 

 

 Jake and Felicia were not hard to spot. They were at the back of the band, but they were filing out of the stadium and Jared couldn't be bothered to run after them. He saw Jensen and Jeffrey talking with Pellegrino and another kid on the football team, but he didn't feel like bothering them. "Who's that by your brother?" Matt asked. Jared spun around and gazed at the cheerleader Matt was pointing to. Jared shrugged. "Can we go and say hi?" Matt asked. 

"Sure," Jared shrugged. "Although I doubt Jeff'll appreciate it." 

"Who cares?" chuckled Matt. Jared didn't respond and padded towards his brother, who was running a hand through his hair and laughing. Matt smiled at the cheerleader and her friends and they smiled politely back. "Good game," Matt said. 

"Thanks," Jeff said, smiling. "I forgot you guys were coming. Have fun?"

"I guess," shrugged Jared.

"We'll see you later," one of the cheerleaders said. Jeff nodded and waved as they skipped towards Pellegrino. 

"Am I driving you back?" Jeff questioned.

"Uh... yes, please," Jared replied. 

"Alright, let me take a shower and I'll meet you in the parking lot, yeah?" 

"Alright," Jared sighed. He watched his brother walk away before turning around. He jerked his head towards the entrance and Matt nodded. 

"Seriously," he said as they approached Jensen's group. "These cheerleaders are so hot, right?" Jared nodded. Honestly, he could tell why Matt found them physically attractive, but he wasn't attracted to them. He scratched his head, trying to remember if he had ever been attracted to anyone. When he was younger, he'd laugh about attractive pop stars with his sister, but that didn't mean anything. Jensen's smirking face came to mind, but Jared wouldn't say he thought Jensen was hot. No, he thought Jensen was nice and kind and funny and interesting and he could tell why other people were attracted to him, but he wasn't. Jared could appreciate his nice eyes and his smirk and his broad smile and his warm hands and beautiful hair, but that didn't mean- didn't mean Jared thought he was hot. "I mean, damn," Matt said, drawing Jared out of his thoughts. 

"What did you say?" Pellegrino said, spinning around. Matt raised an eyebrow.

"Nothing to you, dumbass," Matt spat.

"No, but you're talking about my girlfriend, dickhead."

"Why would she go out with a pig like you?" scoffed Matt. Pellegrino took a step forward and glowered at him. 

"What did you say about my girlfriend?" growled Pellegrino.

"Nothing," flared Matt. "Nothing."

"I don't think so," Pellegrino said, pushing Matt backwards.  "What did you say?" 

"I just said she was hot, alright?" Matt shrugged. Pellegrino growled.

"Oi, Marky!" Jeffrey called. Jared exhaled slowly. "You coming for pancakes or not?"

"Watch your step, dumbass," Pellegrino snapped, before walking away. 

"I hate him more and more whenever I see him," murmured Matt.

"Me too," muttered Jared. 

 

  Jensen and Jeffrey were still in the parking lot when Jared and Matt got to Jeff's car. Jensen's white t-shirt was now drenched with water and it clung to his thin hips and obvious abs, causing Jared to feel his blood rushing. He felt hotter the longer he stared at him and shook his head. "You alright, JT?" Jeff asked as he approached. "You look a little ill."

"I-I'm fine," Jared murmured. 

"Really?"

"Maybe a little dehydrated," Jared lied. 

"Alright," shrugged Jeff.

"Hey, can you give Matt a lift?"

"I'm not a fucking taxi service. I have things to do."

"Please?"

"Fine." 

"Thank you," Matt piped up. 

"Let's hurry up, though, we need to get going." Jared nodded and hopped into the passenger's seat of the car and slammed the door. 

Chapter Text

Jared struggled to sleep that night. For some reason, he had something tugging on his mind; he couldn't stop thinking of Matt's infatuation with the cheerleaders, or, more accurately, his own lack on infatuation for anyone other than Jensen.

- - - - -

Jared awoke earlier than he would've liked to. Jeff was still snoring in the bed beside him and he could hear his father's snoring carrying down the hallway. Jared rubbed his eyes and sat up. He picked his phone up from where it was charging on the floor and instinctively went to check his social media. He regretted this, as the first thing he saw was Ruth's post depicting a party she had clearly been to the previous night where Jensen was shirtless in most of the pictures. In one, he was in just swimming trunks, draping himself over Jeffrey, with his hand on Jeffrey's chest. In another, he was sitting on one of the cheerleader's laps, pulling her hair. Jared clicked on where Jensen was tagged and was happy to find that his profile was public. Jensen had also posted photos from the party, but ones where he looked significantly less drunk and was still dressed in his plaid button down shirt. Jared's favourite was the one where Jensen was hugging Jeffrey's dog, his cheek pressed into the cream fur as the dog stuck its tongue out. Jared shook his head and dropped his phone onto his bed and dropped his head into his hands. 

 

 Jared spent more time than he'd like to dwelling on the image of a shirtless Jensen. He wondered what Jensen's skin would feel like underneath his hands, if Jensen was ticklish and if Jensen's skin smelt as good as his hair. Jared mentally cursed himself for thinking of how Jensen's hair smelt. Jared shook his head, deciding that he did indeed have a problem. He needed to know what was going on with his head, but he didn't know who could help him. He didn't want to ask his parents, as that would be awkward, he couldn't ask Jeff or Matt as they'd made it clear they found girls attractive and he didn't personally know anyone who thought guys were hot, so Jared did what any sane person his age would do and resorted to internet forums. 

 

The first site Jared was on was mainly people complaining that they felt remorse when they jerked off thinking about someone of the same gender. While Jared wasn't proud that he might be attracted to Jensen, he'd never done that, so that wasn't helpful. The next chat was about someone who didn't know if they liked gay porn or not, which also wasn't an issue to Jared as he'd never risk watching porn in a room he shared with his brother, so that wasn't helpful either. The third forum was slightly more helpful, giving insight to how gay guys felt when they were attracted to other guys,  but it was mainly focused on when they thought they were straight and since Jared had never forced himself to date a girl, that didn't really help him either. The next website was focused on how to tell if your crush was straight. Jared considered bookmarking it for later, but decided against it and continued his search. The next site just made Jared sad, as it was primarily people saying that they felt as if their families wanted them to be 'normal' and how they felt bad that they weren't. "I feel like the alien in the room," Jared read. "I know I'm gay but I can't deal with it any more. This is depressing." He closed that tab and continued his search.

 

Eventually, Jared found something of interest. At first, it seemed kind of boring as it was just telling him that he shouldn't rush to put himself in a box, but Jared didn't feel like he was doing that anyway, he just wanted to know if he had more in common with gay guys than straight guys. "Have you ever felt attracted to the same sex?" Jared read. "That's what I'm trying to find out, you stupid article. Have you ever considered a sexual relationship with the same sex?" Jared thought about this for a moment. He had never really thought about having sex with a girl before; he had unfortunately seen porn before at Matt's house, but it hadn't interested him. He thought about the idea of sex with a guy- avoiding the image of shirtless Jensen in his mind's eye- and decided he much preferred the idea of thin, muscular hips and broad shoulders. "I guess," he sighed. "Do you feel emotional bonds to the same sex? I guess. I dunno." Jared skimmed the page and found nothing else of interest on there.

 

Jared picked up his hoodie from the floor and pulled it on. He stuffed his phone into the pocket and plodded into the bathroom across the hall. He locked the door and flicked on the light, staring into the mirror.  "Hello, Jared," he said, his eyes still on his own reflection, "it is ten past seven in the morning and-and I am straight. Very straight. I-I like girls." He peered long and hard into the mirror as if he expected some sort of sign in his face. He sighed. "My name is Jared," he muttered, "it is... twelve past seven in the morning and I-I am gay." Once again, there was no difference in his face; there wasn't even a lack of tension, but Jared did feel as if a tightness in his chest had been lifted. "I guess that's that, then," Jared murmured to himself. 

 

 Jared decided to give up scrolling through his timeline once again less than an hour later as he soon got distracted looking through Jensen's tagged pictures. Some made him chuckle at Jensen's facial expressions, but many of them made him feel jealous as it was clear Jensen was more than willing to drape himself over anyone he got close enough to and Jared wished that that was him. Jared left his phone on the bed and padded downstairs to get a drink. 

 

 After eating breakfast, Jared spent most of the day in the old tree house behind the garden shed. He decided to avoid pictures of Jensen and looked through pictures of other shirtless guys, although some did resemble Jensen, until he was certain that he was definitely attracted to them. Jared shook his head, wondering what Jensen would think of him if he knew Jared was so obsessed with his shirtless beach pictures, before deciding he didn't need to worry about that anyway. 

- - - - -

Jared slept much better that night and woke up feeling refreshed on Sunday morning. Jeff was still snoring on the bed beside him, but Jared could hear the tap running downstairs, so he presumed that his parents were already downstairs. Jared threw on his hoodie and pulled a pair of sweatpants on over his boxers before rushing into the kitchen. Jared smiled at Mrs. Padalecki, who was turning sausages in a griddle. "Morning, JT," she said, once she noticed him. Jared smiled. "Does Jeff look likely to be here any time soon?" 

"No," Jared replied. "We'll hopefully see him before midday." 

"It doesn't seem likely." 

"So, what's for breakfast?"

"I've got sausage and egg cooking, but I can make toast if you want to go with it." 

"I'm fine with just sausage and egg," said Jared. 

 

 Jeff left the house not long after he got up, leaving Jared in the room alone. Jared lay on his bed, listening to music on his IPod, and stared up at the ceiling. He knew he probably should be reading through textbooks or learning lyrics for the play, but he didn't want to do anything that would lead to him thinking of Jensen. Instead, he was going to push Jensen out of his mind for as long as possible. 

 

 Mrs. Padalecki called Jared down for lunch just after one o'clock. He changed out of his baggy hoodie into a sweater that fit him better before he marched downstairs. He met Meg on the stairs, who didn't say anything to him, before he plodded into the kitchen. Mrs. Padalecki had left him a sandwich and a salad consisting of celery, salad and grated carrot. Jared glanced at the plate, but decided to speak to his parents before he ate. 

 

  Mr and Mrs. Padalecki were sat on the couch in the living room when Jared wandered in. He gingerly sat on the armchair to their right and didn't say anything. It took Mrs. Padalecki a few minutes to realise her younger son had entered the room, but when she did, she raised an eyebrow at him. "You okay, sweetheart?" she asked. "You're awfully quiet." Jared shrugged.

"What's up, kiddo?" Mr Padalecki asked, pausing whatever they were watching on the TV. Jared shrugged. He was still trying to work out whether or not he wanted to tell them his new revelation, but it was clear that his parents weren't accepting that as an answer.

"Is something wrong?" his mother asked softly. Jared shrugged again. "Did you forget to study for another test?"

"Uh, no, nothing like that," Jared muttered. 

"Did you fight with Matt or Jake?"

"No."

"Do you want money, son?" Mr Padalecki asked. 

"No, no," Jared murmured. "I, uh... I need to talk to you, though." 

"Are- are you sure everything's okay?" Mrs. Padalecki questioned. Jared wrung his hands together in his lap and stared down at them as he bit his lip. 

"So, um... I've been,  uh... working through some stuff and I need to tell you something," Jared mumbled. 

"What's up?" Mr Padalecki asked sharply. Jared rubbed his hands together and awkwardly and sighed. 

"Jared?" questioned Mrs. Padalecki. "You're starting to worry us." Jared bit his bottom lip and tried to ignore the tears welling in his eyes. He assumed that the tears were due to the biting of his lip as he wasn't sad about what he was about to say, just nervous. He didn't know how his parents felt about these things, but he hoped it wouldn't be too bad. 

"I- uh- I-I-I'm g-gay," Jared spluttered. He kept his eyes glued to his feet as he felt his parents' eyes upon him. 

"A-are you sure, sweetie?" Mrs. Padalecki asked. Jared nodded his head shortly. "Alright, honey." Jared heard Mr Padalecki stand up and walk towards him. The man leant over his son and draped an arm around his neck. 

"You had us worried for a second, kiddo," he said. "We thought something was wrong." He kissed Jared's temple and smiled at him. Jared smiled sheepishly back at him. 

"We love you, Jay, you know that, right?" Mrs. Padalecki asked. Jared nodded and smiled more broadly.

"So, is there a boyfriend we need to know about?" Mr Padalecki asked. Jared shook his head. Mr Padalecki tapped his shoulder. "Are you going to eat lunch with us?" he asked.

"I'm going to eat in my room," shrugged Jared. Mr Padalecki nodded and removed his arm so Jared could shuffle back into the kitchen. 

Chapter Text

Jared met Matt at the lockers in the corridor of his homeroom class before he padded to his first lesson. Matt had noticeable bags under his eyes and his hair was a tousled mess, indicating how tired he was. "What time did you go to bed last night?" Jared chuckled. Matt scoffed and rolled his eyes.

"What's it to you?"

"Very little." 

"I was playing in an online Dungeons and Dragons tournament. I came second, by the way, but it took me until four."

"That sucks."

"Tell me about it," chuckled Matt. "Now, what did you need to tell me that you were so willing to risk having your phone confiscated over." 

"Uh... I have some bad news, for you," Jared said. However, before he managed to get it out, he heard a holler behind him as Rich and Pellegrino began to run down the corridor. They stopped once they reached the wall and Rich kicked the bin into it. 

"What did that bin do to you?" Matt asked. Rich shrugged.

"You!" exclaimed Pellegrino wildly. "You little shit. Who do you think you are to talk to us?"

"Uh... a human being who has the right to free speech." 

"You're a little shit who sexualised my girlfriend."

"Not true!"

"Isn't it?" 

"Damn, kid, that's just wrong," Rich said. Matt rolled his eyes. 

"Here's a tip, kid," Pellegrino said, pushing Matt against the locker, "back off and fuck off." 

"Hey, you came up to me," argued Matt. Pellegrino growled and used Matt's hair to pull his head backwards, flaring his nostrils.

"What did I say?" growled Pellegrino. 

 

  Jared did not have a chance to speak to Matt after that as a Spanish teacher ushered them down the hall to their respective English classes. Jared slumped onto his seat beside Jake and smiled. "Are you okay?" Jake questioned as he ran a hand through his hair. 

"Are you still going to band practice every day?" Jared muttered. Jake nodded.

"Yeah, we have another game this week," he shrugged. "Why? Want to join?"

"Oh, no," Jared said. "It doesn't matter." 

"Alright," said Jake dismissively. "So, how was your weekend."

"Pretty boring," Jared replied. "How was yours?"

"My dog died."

"Oh, are you okay?"

"Yeah, she was getting old and she had arthritis in both of her back legs so I suppose we were expecting it."

"Did-did you have her put down?"

"No, my mother found her in the garden."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Jared said awkwardly. 

"It's fine," shrugged Jake. "You didn't kill her."

 

 Jared and Matt ran into Pellegrino between first and second period. He knocked Matt's phone to the ground and deliberately kicked Jared in the back of the leg as he and Rich rushed down the science corridor. "I hate that fucking bastard," Matt murmured as he picked his phone up off the floor. "Think of all the guys in this school who hit on the cheerleaders and he chooses me to target." Jared nodded and huffed. 

 

 Jared and Matt left the gymnasium as soon as they possibly could. Matt left first, asking the coach if he could use the bathroom, before Jared did the same four minutes later. When he got there, Matt was sat on one of the sinks, his attention on his phone, so Jared leant against the wall beside him. "Are you planning on going back in there?" Jared muttered.

"No."

"Good," sighed Jared. "Neither am I."

"Do you have much homework tonight?" Matt questioned. 

"No," Jared replied.

"Do you want to do my maths homework for me?"

"Not at all."

"Damn it."

"Do it at lunch," said Jared. 

"And what will you be doing? Watching me struggle?"

"Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you," muttered Jared uncomfortably. "I have rehearsal every day this week at lunch and after school."

"That sucks." 

 

  After twenty minutes of conversation, Jared plodded back to the changing room to collect his phone from his rucksack. He plodded slowly back to the bathroom he had left Matt in. When he returned, Matt was not alone, he had Pellegrino shouting into his face, so angry that he was red in the face. Rich and Jeffrey were stood behind him, neither looking very comfortable. Jared widened his eyes as Pellegrino grabbed Matt's face and pushed him against the wall. "Leave him alone," Jared snarled, sounding more bravely than he felt. Pellegrino turned around and spat at him. 

"Fuck off," he growled. 

"We were here first."

"I will break your friend's fucking face."

"Why do you get such a kick out of beating up kids younger than you? Is it because everyone in your grade would whoop your ass?" 

"Shut it," snarled Pellegrino. He let Matt go and marched towards Jared. 

"Leave it alone, Marky," Jeffrey said weakly. Jared raised an eyebrow. "C'mon, it's not worth it."

"You think this little twerp could do some shit to me?" 

"No, but his fucking brother might," said Jeffrey lowly. "And you know that kid's got a mean swing."

"I could beat his ass."

"Maybe, but you'd have to take a few licks," shrugged Jeffrey. 

"Fuck you," hissed Pellegrino, turning his attention back to Jared. He kicked his knee and stormed out of the bathroom. Jared glowered at Jeffrey and Rich, before rushing to Matt. 

"What did we do?" Rich muttered. "Why're you mad at us?"

"You did jack and shit," growled Jared. "Which is the fucking problem."

"Hey, we're not involved in your beef with Marky."

"No, but your complacent son of a bitches who let him get away with all this shit without a care for who he hurts," snapped Jared. "You just fucking watched him have his way with Matt as if it was normal you sick fucks."

"Well, sorry," snapped Rich.

"You fucking should be," groaned Matt. 

 

  Jared helped Matt to the nurse's office before he padded to the auditorium for rehearsals. Jared saw Jeffrey and Jensen sitting on the edge of the stage and made a point not to approach. Unfortunately for him, Ruth was also sitting with them, so he sat at the second to front row by himself. He saw Amanda and her friends sitting by the piano, where Rich was trying to impress them again. Jared rolled his eyes and took his sandwich out of his rucksack when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He glanced around to see a girl he didn't know staring at him. "You-you're in my seat," she murmured softly. Jared raised an eyebrow. "I-I always sit there." Jared huffed and dragged his stuff to the row behind her. 

 

  Jared had to work with Jensen and Alona on the last scene for most of the day. He didn't mind, as his character was supposed to be angry, so he could avoid making eye contact with the older boy. Mr Johnson clapped once they had finished and let Jared eat his lunch as he went over Pellegrino's first scene. Jared sat backstage with Ruth, ignoring Jensen and Jeffrey, who were spraying water on one another. Jared rolled his eyes and refused to look at Jensen as his wet shirt got damper and damper, showing more and more of his stomach. 

- - - - -

Tuesday brought unique challenges for Jared. He had woken at two in the morning due to blaring sirens. He shot out of bed and threw on a sweater, before peering out of the window. Everything was dark, but the wailing was growing louder. "Wha's up?" slurred Jeff sleepily as he sat up. 

"I-I don't know," Jared muttered. Jeff clambered out of bed and peered over Jared's head. 

"Let's check downstairs," he said. Jared nodded and followed him down to the living room. From the window behind the armchair, they could see a bright green ambulance nearing their house.

"What is going on down here?" hissed Mrs. Padalecki behind them. Jared spun around and smiled at her. 

"That's what we're trying to find out," murmured Jeff. Mrs. Padalecki beckoned them away from the window and glanced outside as the ambulance parked next door. 

"You two stay in here," she said. "I'm going to see if everyone's okay."

"I doubt everyone's doing great if there's a fucking ambulance," murmured Jeff quietly as she left. Jared snorted. 

 

  Mrs. Padalecki returned shortly to usher them back up to bed. The sirens had stopped and there was no longer signs of blue light outside. Jared frowned. "What's happening, Mom?" he asked. Jeff raised an eyebrow.

"Mr Walter had a heart attack," she said softly. "Mrs. Walter seems distressed so I'm going to talk to her. You go to sleep." Jared rolled his eyes and followed Jeff upstairs. 

"Do you know how old Mr Walter is?" Jeff asked quietly as they reached their room. 

"No, he's pretty old though," replied Jared. 

"Yeah, this is probably pretty serious," Jeff said grimly. 

"Yeah."

 

  Jared lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling, as he tried to will himself back to sleep. He was cold and he could hear his father's snores carrying through the hallway. "One," he murmured, resorting to counting sleep. "Two... Three... Four... F- Ow!" He picked up the pillow Jeff had thrown at him and threw it onto the floor, grumpily. 

"Shut up," groaned Jeff. 

"Alright, alright," muttered Jared. "Six," he mumbled, glancing over at Jeff, happy to see he had no reaction. "Seven... Eight... Nine." 

 

 Jared was about to fall asleep when he heard Mrs. Padalecki rushed upstairs. He was incredibly aware of her footsteps on the creaky floorboards outside the bathroom and rolled his eyes as he heard her slam her bedroom door. 

 

 Jared struggled getting back to sleep that night, which meant that he was incredibly grumpy by the time he went to school and having to put up with Matt's inappropriate jokes for an hour didn't help. To make matters worse, he was called out of his fourth period history class to have a final costume fitting with Rich and Jensen. He sat on a table at the back of Mr Kripke's room as Jensen was handed a jacket to try on. "Afternoon, grumpy," Rich said to him. Jared rolled his eyes. "I see you're still being a stuck up bitch."

"Are you still a fucking weasel who has no empathy for others providing he keeps his social status as Pellegrino's bloody goon?" Jared sighed. 

"Jared, we don't need that sort of language in here," Mr Kripke said. Jared gaped, appearing like a fish, causing Rich to chuckle. 

"Oh, so it's fine when he calls me a bitch, but it's not fine when I retaliate," Jared scoffed. "That's just great, isn't it." He rolled his eyes as he felt everyone staring at him. 

"Well, I didn't hear Richard cursing at you," Mr Kripke said. "If it's an issue, why don't you move seats?" Jared huffed and dragged his rucksack to the table in front of him and rested his head in his hands. 

 

  Once Jensen had finished, Rich was given a shirt to try on and Jensen sat beside Jared. He felt Jensen clap his shoulder, but he didn't look up. "How're you?" Jensen asked. Jared didn't respond. "I'm supposed to be in detention again today," Jensen sighed. "I'm hoping Mr Johnson will let me out of it." Jared didn't respond again. "My parents are pissed," Jensen continued. "I have had way too many detentions this semester." Jared remained silent, not wanting to give Jensen any of his attention. While he had internally come to terms with the idea that he found Jensen attractive, he didn't want to risk Jensen finding out.

"Hey, Jared, can you try on this jacket?" Mr Kripke asked. Jared nodded and left the table so he could try on the brown jacket Mr Kripke shook in front of his face. "Is it comfortable?"

"It's a bit rough," Jared shrugged. 

"Okay, try this," he said, taking a black jacket out of a box on the desk behind him. 

 

  Jared thought that once the bell sounded for fifth period, he would be permitted to head to biology, but instead he was lead to the theater downstairs. He sat in the front row and wrung his hands together as Jensen dropped onto the seat beside him. "I'm hungry," Jensen sighed. Jared didn't say anything. He looked up and smiled as Ruth and Jeffrey arrived. Ruth sat beside him and smiled. "Hey," Jensen said, smiling at them. 

"I hate chemistry," Ruth groaned.

"Why?" Jared asked. 

"It's the most confusing shit in the world and there's so much homework," sighed Ruth. 

"I don't think it's as bad as physics, but the homework is annoying." 

"I don't think I've been to a physics lesson in two weeks," snorted Ruth. Jared rolled his eyes. 

- - - - -

Jared and Matt had the misfortune of running into Pellegrino at the beginning of lunch on Thursday. He was with Rich, Jeffrey and Jensen, clearly striding towards the drama block, when he noticed Jared and Matt standing beside the bike shed as Jared tied his shoe. Pellegrino pulled Matt's rucksack down, causing him to wince, and kicked the back of his knee. Matt groaned and the older boy threw him to the ground. "Keep out of the way, you bastard," Pellegrino spat, before he and Jeffrey strutted away. 

"Are you alright?" Jensen asked, approaching them.

"Piss off," snarled Matt as Jared helped him to his feet. He tried to wipe the dirt off his shirt and sighed. 

"Sorry about him," Jensen muttered. "He- he can be like that sometimes."

"What part of 'piss off' don't you understand?" growled Matt. Jensen nodded and strode towards the building.

"Are you gonna be okay?" Jared questioned. 

"Yeah," sighed Matt. "I'm gonna go eat. Good luck with those idiots." Jared nodded.

 

  When he padded into the building, he saw Jensen waiting by the doorway. Jared inwardly rolled his eyes and kept his gaze fixed on his shoes as he wandered into the room. "Hey, Jared," Jensen said quickly. "Is your buddy okay? He looked like he got a rough time there." Jared shrugged and joined Amanda in her row. 

 

  Jared padded towards the parking lot as soon as the bell sounded allowing him to leave. Their after school rehearsal had been cancelled so the band could have the room, which Jared wasn't complaining about. He found the hairs on the back of his neck sticking up whenever Jensen laughed and he found it hard to look at him now that they were both wearing tight, white shirts as per Mr Johnson's request. Jared didn't think that Jensen would think much of it as he interacted with so many people in his day-to-day life. However, he found that he was wrong as he plodded towards his brother's car as he felt someone tap his shoulder. Jared spun around and narrowed his eyes at Jensen, who was slightly red in the face and smirking. "Hey, Jay," Jensen said. Jared nodded. "What's going on?" Jensen asked.

"What do you mean?" Jared questioned, looking down at his feet again. 

"You seem... distant these days," Jensen told him. "It's worrying."

"Oh."

"It's messing up our chemistry on stage," Jensen continued. "'S not a good look, my friend."

"Oh."

"Is it because of Pellegrino?"

"Huh?"

"Are you ignoring me because you're pissed at Pellegrino, because I'd never encourage the shit he pulls," sighed Jensen.

"You didn't try to stop it, either," Jared snapped.

"You're buddy's a big boy, he can handle his own," shrugged Jensen.

"Right."

"Seriously, it wouldn't be doing him any favours if I stepped in; Pellegrino would just say he can't fight his own battles."

"Right."

"So, that's why you're pissed at me, then?"

"No, no," Jared said, struggling to come up with an excuse. "I suppose I'm just stressed." 

"Stressed?" questioned Jensen.

"Yeah, what with worrying I'll forget how the song goes, a shit ton of homework and there's a science project I have due in soon, I-I guess I'm just crabby," Jared told him, deciding a partial lie was better than a full one. 

"Oh, so it's nothing I've done?" 

"Not at all."

"Oh, alright then," Jensen sighed, visibly reassured. "I'll see you tomorrow, then. Try and get a nice night's sleep, maybe that'll help." Jared nodded and waved before he plodded towards Jeff's car. 

- - - - -

 Jared's first show was on Monday night. He waited in the hallway behind the stage with Ruth and Ty nervously, trying to recall what it felt like to perform in front of an audience when he was eleven. "Were you in the last play?" he asked Ty, who shook his head. Jared sighed and bit his bottom lip as he heard the song come to a halt. He couldn't hear Samantha and Pellegrino speaking their lines, but he could work out where in the play they were anyway. 

 

  Jared had thought that the play had gone surprisingly well. He spotted his parents in the crowd, not far from the back with his sister, and he made a point not to look at them too much so he wouldn't get distracted. He tried to stop himself from fixating on Jensen's lips too much when he was speaking, deciding to stare at Jensen's ear when he spoke to him. If Jensen noticed, he didn't mention it when they waited back stage between scenes. He leant against the wall behind Jared as Jared and Ruth sat on the floor, playing with a set of marbles, and hummed to himself. After the show, he followed Jared quietly into the classroom where they had left their belongings and smiled at him. "Good job," Jeffrey said, slapping Jared's shoulder as he entered the room. 

"Uh, thanks," Jared murmured. "You too."

"Cheers," Jeffrey said, smiling.

"What about me?" Jensen asked, striding over to them and raising an eyebrow at Jeffrey. "Wasn't I amazing?"

"Humble as ever, Ackles," he groaned. Jensen chuckled. "You weren't bad," shrugged Jeffrey. 

"Gee, thanks," Jensen said dryly. 

"You weren't too bad," Jared told him. Jensen rolled his eyes.

"Aren't you the sweetest?" he scoffed. Jared chuckled. 

 

  Jared met his parents in the parking lot outside their car. Meg was listening to music through bright, orange earphones that Jared was pretty certain she had stolen from Jeff and Mrs. Padalecki was holding a bouquet of red amaryllis flowers. "Is this another one of your flower language things?" Jared asked, knowing that his mother had an interest in gardening. Mr Padalecki chuckled.

"Maybe," Mrs. Padalecki said smirking. "They mean pride and determination, because we're proud you were determined to see this to the end."

"Uh... thanks," Jared said, flushing. 

"Ready to go?" Mr Padalecki asked. "We were thinking of getting pizza for dinner."

"That sounds great," Jared replied. Mr Padalecki smiled and unlocked the car as Jared saw Ruth and Jeffrey marching past. 

"See you, JT," Ruth called.

"Uh... bye," Jared replied. He followed Meg into the back of the vehicle as Jeffrey waved in his direction. 

"Who're they?" Mrs. Padalecki asked. 

"Um... that's Ruth and Jeffrey, they're in the play with me," Jared said. 

- - - - -

Jared's last show was on Thursday night. His father was apologetic, but was needed at work that evening, so his mother sat in the audience alone. Jared had seen Matt and Jake sitting in the row in front of her, which he was surprised by as he had neglected to tell them when the play was taking place. Jared didn't pay much attention to the audience as he finished the play and padded off stage. Mr Kripke was back stage congratulating people and shaking hands while Mr Johnson was on stage, thanking the audience for their presence. Jared shook Mr Kripke's hand as he plodded into the room, where his rucksack was on a table. "Good job, JT," Ruth told him. 

"Yeah, good job, Jared," Jensen said. Jared gave him a small smile. 

"You guys were great too," he said sheepishly. 

"Ackles, ready to go?" Jeffrey called, approaching them. Jensen shrugged. "Hey, Jared, well done," Jeffrey told him, clapping his back.

"Uh... thanks, you too, I guess," Jared replied. Jeffrey snorted. 

"Hey, we're going to mine for pizza, want to come with?" he asked. Jared shrugged. 

"Uh... I'll need to talk to my Mom first to see if she needs me," Jared muttered awkwardly.

"Okay, cool," Jeffrey said, not mocking Jared at all. 

 

  Jared met Matt in the quad outside the bike shed. "Well done, buddy," Matt told him. "You didn't look half as dorky as I had expected, although your death was clearly staged." Jared rolled his eyes. 

"Uh... can I talk to you?" Jared murmured. Matt shrugged. "Y'know, I've been trying to tell you all week, but I've been so busy and-"

"Spit it out, JT," groaned Matt, rolling his eyes.

"I-I'm gay." Jared inhaled sharply and twiddled his thumbs. 

"I knew it," Matt chuckled. "No straight guy wears his hair like that." Jared rolled his eyes. Matt punched Jared's arm and smirked. "No worry, man, you know that."

"Yeah," Jared sighed. 

"I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?" said Matt. "I've gotta dash; Jake's mother must be waiting for me."

"Alright."

 

 Jared's mother allowed him to join Jensen and Jeffrey at Jeffrey's house for dinner. They sat on Jeffrey's waterbed and watched an old zombie movie as they ate the pizza and nachos that they had ordered from Dominos. "So, what's your plan for getting out of detention now that rehearsals are over?" Jensen chuckled. 

"I'll think of something," shrugged Jeffrey. "Maybe I'll play basketball for another year." 

"I thought you gave up on that?" Jensen questioned. 

"Maybe not." 

"Do you play basketball?" Jared asked Jensen, before shoving three nachos into his mouth. Jensen chortled.

"No, no, no," he said. "I'm more of a baseball kinda guy."

"Really? You're tall enough."

"So are you."

"I'm not athletic."

"I don't jump."

"Fair enough," chuckled Jared. 

 

 Jared was given another bouquet of flowers and a bar of chocolate when he returned home after Jensen's mother kindly drove him home. "Do you want to watch the game with Jeff?" Mrs. Padalecki asked him.

"No thanks," Jared said. "I'm tired and I have math to do." Mrs. Padalecki nodded.

Chapter Text

Christmas was an elaborate, family affair for Jared. They traveled up to Houston to get to his grandmother's house, where most of his father's extended family were for five or so days. Jared and Meg were sleeping in one of the guest rooms, Jared with his elder cousin and Meg with their grandmother's god-daughter, but Jeff and Mrs. Padalecki had stayed in a hotel nearby. Mr Padalecki, regrettably, had had to stay in Austin as he needed to stay on-call for work.

 

Jared returned home the day after boxing day. He was tired as his mother had woken him at six, so they could be home by the time his father got back from his early morning shift. Jeff rushed straight to the shower, while Jared and Meg padded to the kitchen to get something to eat. 

 

 As Mrs. Padalecki had planned, Mr Padalecki wandered in through the front door after work at half past nine to see Jared and Meg sitting on the couch, eating cheerios, while she was in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil. "Well, hello," Mr Padalecki said, smiling, "this is a nice surprise. I thought you weren't due back until this afternoon."

"So did we," groaned Meg. Mr Padalecki chuckled. 

"How was the drive?" he asked.

"I found it fine," shrugged Mrs. Padalecki. "Jeff didn't most of the driving."

"I felt very unsafe," piped up Meg. "He drives like a lunatic." 

"He wasn't that bad," said Mrs. Padalecki. Mr Padalecki shrugged. 

- - - - -

"Jared, come down here!" Mrs. Padalecki called mid-morning on New Years' Eve. Jared groaned, threw his book onto his bed, and rushed downstairs to meet her in the hallway. He raised an eyebrow at her questioningly as he lingered at the foot of the stairs. "You have a friend at the door," Mrs. Padalecki told him. Jared narrowed his eyes; he knew Felicia and Ruth didn't know where he lived, Matt was in Oklahoma and Jake had family over, so he doubted his mother would let him walk to Jared's house.

"Oh, okay," Jared said. Mrs. Padalecki smiled and strode into the living room, while Jared plodded towards the front door. He opened it, to find Jensen standing there, wearing a red jumper and a pair of shorts. "How're you not cold?" Jared asked. Jensen chuckled. 

"I've been jogging, so I'm actually warm and sweaty," he shrugged, "but that's not the point."

"Yeah... uh... how do you know where I live?" 

"Oh, I asked my mother since she's dropped you home before," Jensen said. "Anyway, that' not the point either." 

"What is the point?" 

"Can I use your bathroom? I'm dying."

"Seriously?"

"Yeah," Jensen said weakly. "Please?"

"Uh, sure," sighed Jared. "There's one underneath the stairs." He stepped sideways so Jensen could shuffle inside and sat on the bottom step. 

 

 Jensen returned quickly and wiped his hands on his shorts. He smirked at Jared and slowly plodded out of his house. Jared followed him to the doorway and smiled at Jensen, who stopped. "So, how was your Christmas?" Jensen asked conversationally. Jared shrugged.

"It was nice... homely," Jared said. "How-how was yours?"

"Good, good," Jensen said. "I got cool new boots for the baseball season and a snowman made out of chocolate."

"Sounds nice. Is there anything else or did you just want my bathroom?"

"Oh, uh, I'm having a party tonight," Jensen told him. "It'd be cool if you came."

"What sort of party?"

"The fun kind."

"Do-do I need to bring a present?"

"It's not a birthday party, man," said Jensen. "New Years an' all that." 

"What time?"

"You can come over at any time from ten," shrugged Jensen. 

"C-Could you wait a second? I need to ask my Mom."

"Yeah, sure." Jensen flashed him a smile as Jared retreated back into his house and scurried into the living room, where Mrs. Padalecki was flicking through a magazine. 

"Hey, Mom, can I go to Jensen's party tonight?" Jared asked. 

"Oh, Jared," she sighed. "I don't know."

"Jeff's going out, right?"

"Yes, but, I don't know..."

"Please?"

"Ask your father."

"Don't say that."

"Is Jensen the boy outside?"

"Yes."

"What time do you need to be there?"

"Any time after ten."

"Isn't that a little late?" Mrs. Padalecki questioned.

"We're going to watch the new year's count down, I suppose."

"I-I suppose so," sighed Mrs. Padalecki. 

"Thanks," Jared replied, smiling. He rushed back to the front door, where Jensen was still stood on the driveway, his eyes on his phone. Jared smirked at him. 

"What's the verdict?"

"I can go," Jared replied. Jensen beamed. "C-Could you write down your address so my mom can drive me?" 

"Yeah, sure," shrugged Jensen. Jared rushed back inside the house and took an envelope and a pencil from the table beside the desktop computer. He marched back to the front door and handed them to Jensen.

"I didn't want to go upstairs to get paper, so just use this."

"Alright." 

 

  Jared was nervous heading to Jensen's party. Although he had been to Jensen's house before, he did not know who would be there or whether or not Jensen would want to pay him any attention. Jared also couldn't work out whether or not he wanted Jensen to pay him any attention; in a perfect world, Jensen would be kissing him as the clock struck twelve, but since that was unlikely, he was trying to work out whether it would be best for him not to risk Jensen realising he found him attractive, or if it would be best for him to try and better his friendship with Jensen now that the play was over and they'd have less time to see one another. 

 

  Jared still hadn't made his decision when he arrived at Jensen's house. After assuring his father he would call whenever he needed a lift home and that he wouldn't drink or stay out too late, Jared clambered out of the car and padded down Jensen's driveway. He knocked on the door and swayed slightly as he heard footsteps approach. "Hey, Jared," Jeffrey said, beaming down at him. Jared gave him a small smile. "Ackles didn't say you were coming; come on in." Jared smiled and followed Jeffrey into Jensen's living room. Jensen was flicking through channels on the TV and Ty was sat on an armchair, eating cheeseballs from a bowl. "Jared's here," Jeffrey said. Jensen smiled at him.

"Hey, Jay," he said. "How're you?" Jared shrugged. "Good, good."

"Anyone else hungry?" Ty asked. "Can we order pizza now?"

"Let me sort out the music and then we'll do it," grumbled Jensen. 

"I can order it," Ty shrugged. 

"No," Jensen said firmly. "Later."

"Alright, alright," sighed Ty. Jensen nodded. 

 

  Fortunately for Jared, Ruth was at the party, so they spent most of the evening outside, sitting on the hammock. Ruth drank beer from a brown bottle and Jared sipped water from a glass he had taken from Jensen's kitchen, ensuring him that he wouldn't damage it. There were less people at the party than there had been at Jeffrey's, which Jared found both comforting and more intimidating; comforting because it meant there were less strangers and it was quieter and intimidating because more people could see him and or laugh at him as Jared still wasn't comfortable being around Jensen's drunk friends. Ruth, however, was having the time of her life, laughing at Jeffrey's bad dancing and sipping the free beer. 

 

 As much as Jared liked being outside, Jensen made sure to drag him inside for the countdown to midnight. He was forced onto the couch between Jensen and Jeffrey and watched as the count down began on the TV. He felt Jensen's knee rub against his and his foot rest on his own ankle as he enthusiastically clapped along with the rest of the room and felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. "How much have you had to drink?" Jared questioned lowly. Jensen snorted. 

"Enough, J-boy, enough," he said. Jared rolled his eyes. 

"I don't like the sound of that," he muttered. Jensen chortled.  

"Do you want some?"

"No, no, no."   

"Alright, alright," sighed Jensen. "Now, shut up, it's nearly time." Jared nodded. 

 

  Jared expected the party to be over shortly after the midnight countdown, but he found he was incorrect when Jeffrey returned from the kitchen with more bottles of beer. "Sit down, everyone," he said. "Let's play a game." A few people clapped and people sat on the floor in the centre of the room. Jared saw Ruth shuffling out of the room, towards the kitchen, and followed her. He poured himself another glass of water, while Ruth took a soda out of the fridge. 

"You're not playing the games with Jeffrey, then?" Jared asked.

"Oh, no," Ruth replied. "Not my sort of thing. It's fun to watch, sometimes." 

"Why?"

"You'll see," Ruth said, smiling. She jerked her head towards the door, so Jared led her back to the living room. She stuck her arm out to stop him crossing the doorway, so he leant against the door frame and rubbed the back of his neck. Ty leant forward and spun the green bottle that was in the centre of the almost-circle everyone was sat in. It landed on a girl that Jared didn't know with streaks of green in her blonde hair. The girl rolled her eyes as a few in the group gave an 'ooh' as she stood up. Jared was surprised to watch her shuffle between himself and Ruth to wait in the kitchen; his understanding of kiss the bottle would be that she would've had to kiss Ty, but maybe not. 

"Ty's breath reeks of garlic, so I doubt kissing him would be the best for her," Jeffrey said. 

"Hey!" snapped Ty.

"It'd be funny, though," Jensen said.

"Not nice," scoffed Ty. 

 

  Jared glanced at Ruth and didn't may much attention to the rest of the conversation. Jensen smiled at him as he shifted past Ruth to summon the girl from the kitchen. "We voted slap," Ty said. The girl scrunched her face up as Ty slapped her in the face. Jared widened his eyes.

"What the hell is this game?"

"A weird version of spin the bottle Jeffrey learnt at camp one year," Ruth told him, "which I won't participate in." 

"Fair enough," Jared sighed. 

 

 Most people left shortly after one. Jared collected his denim jacket from the cupboard under the stairs and turned to follow Ruth out of the house when he saw Jensen striding towards him. Jared offered him a small smile and, before Jared could say anything, Jensen enveloped him in a hug. Jared didn't push away, but he didn't hug back either. "Jeffrey's staying with me tonight," Jensen told him, his voice against Jared's neck. "Do you want to sleep over too?"

"Uh... no," he replied uncomfortably, "I need to go home; my dad'll be waiting for me."

"Oh, okay," Jensen said, pulling away and ruffling Jared's hair. 

"How much have you had to drink?" 

"A lot," Jensen replied. "Like, so much. My dad is gonna to whoop my ass tomorrow. It's gonna hurt." Jared snorted.

"See you, Ackles," Ruth called.

"Yeah, see you," Jared said.

"Bye bye, bye bye," Jensen said, smiling as Ty ran into him. 

- - - - -

Jared's first day back to school didn't exactly go without a hitch. His father had worked a late shift the night before and was still in bed when Jared awoke, but Jeff had forgotten he was taking Jared and Meg to school, so Jared had had to call him back. Jeff muttered half-assed apologies and ushered them into the back of his car. He dropped Meg off first, so Jared ended up missing homeroom entirely.

 

  When Jared did finally get to school, he noticed Matt in the corridor, on the way to history. Jared sped up to jog after him, only to be pushed to the floor by Pellegrino. Jared rolled his eyes and forced himself to his feet, only to have Pellegrino hit him on the head with a textbook. "Watch it, weasel," Pellegrino chuckled, before he and Rich sauntered away. Jared rubbed his palms against his legs and ducked his head and he marched past a few chuckling students to his history classroom, where Matt was waiting in the doorway. 

"Someone needs to actually kill that guy," he said darkly.

"I wouldn't complain," sighed Jared, following Matt to the back of the classroom. 

"Do you think I have enough cash to put out a hit on him?"

"I doubt it, sadly," muttered Jared. "Besides, I think that's a tad illegal."

"Damn it." 

"Quiet in the back there," snapped their teacher. 

 

 Jared turned a coin over in his hand as he walked towards the canteen for sixth period lunch. He could hear Matt and Ruth discussing types of racing dogs behind him, but he didn't know anything about what they were discussing. "What's for lunch today?" Ruth asked. Matt shrugged. 

"I dunno," he said. "Something edible." 

"I hope so."

"I'm starving," Jared said. "I only had a piece of toast for breakfast." 

"My mother cooked me eggs, bacon and sausage," said Matt. "She could tell I wasn't looking forward to school." 

"How pleasant," said Ruth dryly. "If you excuse me, I have a ride to catch."

"You're leaving?" Jared asked.

"Yeah, dentist." 

"Really?"

"As far as the school knows," shrugged Ruth. 

 

  Jared and Matt left the canteen as soon as they finished eating. Matt wanted to pick up a book from the library about dinosaurs so he could prove his cousin wrong about something. Jared followed him down the corridor, his eyes on his feet, until he heard a shout. Jared's eyes darted up, to see Pellegrino, Rich and Jeffrey staring down at them. Jensen and Ty were behind them, talking quietly to themselves, as if they couldn't hear Pellegrino laughing hysterically. "Look who decided to show his face," laughed Pellegrino. "Weird little bugger."

"Why would I be hiding from you?" scoffed Matt. "You're nothing special."

"Says who?" Pellegrino asked, pushing Matt backwards. Matt frowned. "Still think you have a chance with the senior cheerleader?"

"Well, if you can, so can anyone."

"Not you, you're a stupid little bitch," laughed Pellegrino. "You're like, trailer trash, but with a crazier father. I swear, your dad looks like the sort of guy who fucks seagulls behind dumpsters." 

"Who even thinks of shit like that?"

"And what about your mother, huh? Bitch looks like she belongs in the psych ward. What's with that necklace she's always wearing? Is she a hippie or is she under house-arrest? Has she ever seen a hairbrush before? Does she make that little money in her alleyway? Is it cos she's getting old." As Pellegrino spoke, Jared kept his eyes glued on Matt, who had clenched his fists and was breathing heavily through his nose. Pellegrino held up his hand to high-five Rich, who rolled his eyes, but complied. Pellegrino turned his head to laugh with Rich and Matt leapt at him, before Jared could grip his arm. Matt caught him off-guard, so he knocked him to the floor. Pellegrino growled and kicked him in the stomach. He hoisted Matt back onto his feet and threw him into the lockers behind them. Jensen and Ty took a step backwards, eyes wide, but Jared rushed forward. He tried to pull Matt out of the way, but Pellegrino's grip on his shoulder was stronger. Pellegrino repeatedly brought his fist to Matt's face. 

"You bastard," hissed Matt.

"You're a little shit," snarled Pellegrino. Jared kicked his shin and again tried to pull Matt out of the way, but Pellegrino ignored him and continued his assault on Matt. Jared sighed, feeling hopeless as he watched Matt's nose bleed. He decided to change his tactic, now pushing against Pellegrino's chest, but Pellegrino gripped his arm and threw him against the locker, beside Matt. 

"OI, OI!" Jeffrey shouted. "KNOCK IT OFF!" He grabbed the back of Pellegrino's bag and pulled him backwards. Pellegrino rounded on him and punched the side of his head, causing him to stumble backwards. He turned to Jared and gripped his arm firmly. 

"Back off, Pellegrino," growled a voice behind Jared. Jared glanced over his shoulder to see Jeff standing there, his eyes narrowed, his fists clenched. 

"What are you gonna do, Pada-what's it?" snarled Pellegrino. Jeff rolled his eyes. The blond boy beside him gripped Pellegrino's arm and pulled it behind his back. Another one of Jeff's friends helped Matt away from the lockers as Jeff punched Pellegrino in the face. 

 

  Jared ended up in the principal's office. He had an ice pack for his forearm and was sat beside Jeffrey, who had an ice pack for his head. Jeff and his friends had already been sent back to their classes, but Jared and Jeffrey had been told to write down what they saw. Pellegrino was sitting the other side of Jeffrey, an ice pack on his nose and his hood up to cover the growing bruise on his forehead. "Your friend, Pada-what's it's brother, is a little shit," snarled Pellegrino.

"You're Jeff's brother?" Jeffrey questioned.

"Uh... yeah," Jared sighed. "I thought you knew that, 'Padalecki' isn't a common name."

"Yeah, I guess," said Jeffrey. "I didn't really pay it much attention." 

"Mr Padalecki, Mr Morgan," said the secretary, sticking her head around the door frame, "your parents are here." Jared raised an eyebrow. "To take you home," she said pointedly. Jared dropped the ice pack onto the principal's desk and led Jeffrey out of the room. 

 

  Mr Padalecki was in the main office of the school, talking in hushed tones to a tall man Jared presumed was Jeffrey's father. "JT, hey," Mr Padalecki said. "Are you okay? What happened? Jeff tried to explain, but the principal sent him back to physics." Jared shrugged. "I heard Matt's name a few times," Mr Padalecki told him. "Is he alright, Jay?"

"Uh... not really," Jared mumbled as they plodded out of the school, towards the parking lot. 

"What happened?" 

"He-he got into a fight with a senior," Jared sighed. "Jeffrey- he was the boy whose dad you were waiting with- and I tried to split them up, but it didn't work." 

"Is Matt okay?"

"I- I dunno."

"How is Jeff involved?"

"He and his friend managed to pull the senior off him."

"Good for him."

"Yeah, I guess," Jared sighed. He rubbed the back of his head. "So, we're going home?"

"Unless you need to be checked out at the hospital, yeah."

"I-I'm good," Jared said. He clambered into the car and yawned. 

- - - - -

Jared returned to school on Wednesday. His mother had allowed him to take Tuesday off to relax, but Jared found that he spent less time relaxing and more time trying to find out from Matt what was going on. By the end of Tuesday, Jared knew that both Matt and Pellegrino had both been suspended, which meant that Jared was now down one less friend. 

 

 Jared tried speaking to Jake in homeroom, but, once again, he left almost immediately for band practice. He spoke to Ruth briefly between classes, but she spent her lunchtime with Jeffrey and his friends. Felicia was with Jake at band practice and Amanda was doing whatever she did now that the play was over, so Jared sat alone and ate his slightly cold pasta at lunch, trying to block out the sound of the freshman girls argument at the end of the table. 

Chapter Text

Mrs. Padalecki made Jared sandwiches the following week. He ate them alone in the library, flicking through books about volcanoes to help him research an essay for geography. He also had a tub of peaches in syrup and a chocolate bar to go with his lunch, but he wasn't hungry enough to eat them. He used sticky notes to bullet point his notes down so he didn't have to write the full essay while he was there as he was occasionally distracted by the sounds of people arguing and snorting around him. 

- - - - -

"How was school, love?" Mrs. Padalecki asked as Jared wandered in from school on Friday afternoon. Mr Padalecki had dropped him off, before driving off to work, so he had left Jared to enter alone. "Was everything okay?" 

"Everything was the same as it's been all week," groaned Jared. 

"Did you like your lunch?"

"I did," sighed Jared. "Thanks." 

"Did you eat in the library again?"

"Yeah."

"Why don't you join another club or something?"

"None of them interest me," muttered Jared. 

"What's Jake doing these days?" Mrs. Padalecki questioned.

"He's in the band," shrugged Jared.

"Why don't you join that, you used to play tenor horn?"

"I don't want to have to go to all the sports games, which is where they have to play."

"What happened to that Jensen boy? Didn't you go to his house last week?"

"Uh... yeah," murmured Jared. "I've seen him around a couple of times, but I haven't spoken to him since the party. He was- is- friends with that Pellegrino kid, so I don't know if he's mad at Matt and I for the fight." 

"Oh."

- - - - -

Jared wore an old scruffy polo shirt he had inherited from Jeff to school on Monday. His mother had had to go to work early as she was supervising the breakfast club at her school, so Jared had no sandwiches, which he was not overly happy about. He marched into his homeroom slightly after the bell and flopped onto his seat. "Don't get comfortable," droned the homeroom teacher. "We're heading to the gym for assembly." Jared joined in the mass groan that spread across the classroom. 

 

  Jared saw Jake and Felicia lined up against the front wall with the rest of the band, who were playing as they entered. Jared looked around and saw Ruth sitting in the back row, colouring on her hand with a pink highlighter pen. Jared shuffled through a group of students who didn't seem like they were trying to get a seat so he could get to the seat beside Ruth. She glanced over at him and smiled. "Hullo," Jared murmured awkwardly. Ruth nodded.

"Hey."

"How's it going?"

"I'm fine," shrugged Ruth. "Remind me after this that I need to give you something."

"Huh?"

"James took my rucksack cos she thought I was sneaking in soda or something- idiot- but when I get it back I need to give you something."

"Oh, okay." 

 

The assembly was focused on anti-smoking, which Jared didn't really care about, as his grandfather smoked and Jared had seen him wheezing, have coughing fists and his teeth discoloured, so he had no inclining to do so.  He focused on trying to work out what Ruth wanted to give him. She didn't give him any clues and spent the assembly drawing bizarre symbols all over her hand. Jared noticed that an English teacher was loitering, deliberately staring at Ruth for most of the hour, so he didn't want to talk to her and risk being shouted at and embarrassed. 

 

 Jared followed Ruth out of the gym and to Mr. James' classroom. He waited by the water fountain on the corner and tapped his foot as he waited for Ruth to return. When she did, she was murmuring curses under her breath and shaking her head. "That bastard searched my shit," she huffed. "Who gave him the right to do that?"

"I-I dunno," Jared muttered. 

"Do I not have the right to privacy any more?"

"Uh... apparently not." 

"Right," puffed Ruth, "wait, before you go, I need to give you something." She opened her rucksack and handed Jared a piece of paper. "Alright, bye." Jared watched Ruth pad down the corridor, before he unfolded the piece of paper. The handwriting was not one that he recognised; it was untidy and bold and the words appeared to have been scribbled hurriedly. 

"'Jared'," he read. "'Are you mad at me?  I haven't spoken to you in ages and it feels weird. I've seen you almost everyday this week, but you deliberately look away. If you are mad at me, what did I do? Jensen.'" Jared stuffed the note into his pocket and plodded towards his English classroom. 

- - - - -

 Jared was sat at a small table in the library, eating a tuna sandwich and writing an essay on the circulation of blood for biology, when Ruth marched up to him. "Hey, JT," she said. Jared smiled at her. "I have another note for you. Don't worry, I haven't read it, I don't care enough." Jared nodded and accepted the small piece of weirdly ripped paper. He clutched it in his fist as Ruth left the library before he could even invite her to sit down. Jared took another bite out of his sandwich and unfolded the note. "'Jared'" he read. "'You ignored my last note, even though Ruth said she gave it to you, and you still look away when you see me in the halls. Is it me? Is it Jeffrey? Is it Rich? What's the issue? TALK TO MEEEE.'" Jared rolled his eyes and stuffed the piece of paper in his pocket. He didn't know what Jensen wanted him to do, he couldn't just go up to speak to him while he was around Rich, whose name made Jared's blood turn. He didn't want to just turn up at Jensen's house to talk about it in case Rich- or worse, Pellegrino- were there hanging out. 

- - - - -

It seems that Jared and Jensen had different ideas about what was an appropriate way to deal with the situation. Jared was in the living room, helping Meg with some math homework, when Mrs. Padalecki called him. Jared plodded out of the living room and smiled at her. "Your friend is at the door," Mrs. Padalecki told him. Jared raised an eyebrow.

"Matt? Isn't he grounded?"

"Not Matt, the other boy, Jerry or whatever his name was." Jared chuckled and strode past her to get to the door. Jared pulled it open, expecting to see Jake, but instead seeing Jensen smirking at him.

"You took your time," he drawled.

"What're you doing here?" 

"I wanted to talk to you," Jensen said. "You've been ignoring me."

"Yeah, I guess." 

"Why?" 

"I thought you were mad at me," Jared shrugged. 

"Why would I be mad at you?"

"I'm part of the reason why your friend was suspended."

"He's a dick," Jensen said.

"Yeah, that's very true," Jared sighed. "But, for whatever reason, he's your friend and Matt started the fight."

"I was there, Jay, I saw that he was being a dick," Jensen told him. "Did-did you get my notes?"

"Uh... yeah, Ruth gave them to me."

"You didn't speak to me or write back or anything."

"I didn't realise that this was the fourth grade."

"Shush," Jensen snorted. "Why didn't you speak to me after reading the notes."

"You're always with that complacent bastard Richard," snarled Jared. "And I can't look at that prick."

"Rich?" bewildered Jensen. "I mean, he's a cocky prick but he's not evil, he's not Pellegrino."

"No, he's just always with him and never stops him doing whatever he wants and laughs along and mocks pretty much anyone. He's a bully, Jensen. How are you friends with these people?"

"Do you like any of my friends?"

"Not really," Jared replied.

"Do you think I'm a prick?"

"Sometimes."

"Fair enough," Jensen chuckled. 

"My brother thinks you're an utter cock, if that helps."

"Not really."

"Oh." 

"So, to clarify, you're not mad at me and I'm not mad at you, right?" Jensen said. Jared nodded. "Cool. I'm having a party after school tomorrow, my parents are going to see my brother, want to come?"

"Uh... are you dickhead friends going to be there?"

"Jeffrey will, but no dickheaded seniors allowed. Smaller gathering this time."

"Oh, alright." 

"Cool."

- - - - -

Jared left school with Jensen and Ruth the following day. He sat awkwardly on Jensen's couch as he took beer out of the garage and poured cheesy chips into a bowl. He sipped the orange juice Jensen had given him as he heard Ruth possibly breaking something in the bathroom. "What was that?" Jensen called. "Ruth? Ruth, what did you do?" 

 

 Jared sat on the couch, watching Jensen's friends dancing and drinking and eating. He didn't have much interest in the party, but he could see Jensen in the corner of the living room, somehow now shirtless with a little, green party hat on his head. Jared smiled at him and he pushed past Jeffrey to fall onto the couch, his legs on Jared's lap. "I-I miss you, Jay-jay," Jensen said. "I-I haven't seen you in ages." 

"I saw you earlier."

"You-you need to hang out with me more," Jensen said.

"Well, I'm in the library every day if you want to join me."

"Cool," Jensen said, grinning. He scrambled off Jared and sat beside him, leaning his head backwards. "Y'know, I think Ruth and Ty destroyed my bathroom. My mother'll kill me."

"Do your parents know you throw these parties?"

"I told-told them I had friends coming over," shrugged Jensen, smirking. "They probably guess, though, my brother used to do it all the time."

"Fair enough," Jared sighed. 

"Jensen, can I change the music?" a girl with short hair asked.

"Sure, K, whatever," Jensen groaned. Suddenly the speakers were playing a slow, fairly sad song. Jensen groaned and dropped his head onto Jared's shoulder. Jared stared down at him and raised an eyebrow, feeling the weight of Jensen's hand on his back. The hairs on the back of his neck pricked up and he felt as if the bottom of his stomach dropped off as Jensen blew into Jared's ear. "You're cute, JT," Jensen told him. Jared rolled his eyes. "Why do people call you that?" 

"Uh... it's short for Jared Tristan," Jared murmured. Jensen nodded. He sat up so his head was no longer on Jared and raised it so he was looking into Jared's eyes. 

"Does that make me JR?"

"No, it makes you an idiot."

"Ouch." Jensen ran a hand through Jared's hair as Jared licked his lips. He stared at Jensen's plumper lips as his tongue darted out to lick them. Jared felt himself moving closer to Jensen as Jensen pulled something out of Jared's hair. Jared froze. He lowered his shoulders and slowly moved backwards, so he was no longer in Jensen's space.

"Sorry," Jared blurted out.

"Huh? Why're you sorry?"

"I-I was in your space. I-I"

"Relax, Jared, I don't care," Jensen said. Jared sighed. He supposed that Jensen didn't notice that Jared was milliseconds from kissing him. 

"I-I should go," Jared said. "I'll see you Monday."

"Jay? JT? Did I do something wrong?"

"No, no, it-it's just late," Jared sighed. Jensen nodded and slapped his back as he stood up to leave.

Chapter Text

Jared was eating his chicken and sweetcorn baguette in the library when he felt someone slap his back. At first, he thought it was Jeff, but he was pleasantly surprised to see Jensen smiling down at him. Jared raised an eyebrow quizzically as Jensen pulled out the chair beside him. "What's the book about?" he asked, pulling a steak and cheese sandwich out of his bag. 

"Uh... nuclear and other renewable energies," Jared replied. Jensen raised an eyebrow. "It's for physics," Jared explained. Jensen nodded.

"Cool, cool."

"Uh... not to be rude, but what're you doing here? Don't you normally get lunch with Jeffrey and that lot?"

"You invited me, remember?" Jensen questioned. Jared frowned. "At my party, remember? I said we needed to hang out more so you said I could always find you here at lunch, so I'm here." 

"Oh, cool," Jared said. "Do you want me to help you find a book or something?"

"Not really," Jensen sighed. "I currently have this great system where I leave homework until the last minute and it's been working up until now, so I'm not going to change that." 

"I suppose if it works for you," shrugged Jared. He took another bite of his baguette. Jensen bit into his sandwich and offered Jared a small smile. 

"So, what do you do here, doesn't it get boring?" 

"Uh... just homework and stuff," Jared replied. 

"Does anyone come with you?"

"Not since Matt got suspended."

- - - - -

Jared had finished his history essay and was unwrapping his turkey sandwich on Tuesday when he felt someone ruffle his hair. Jared scowled and looked over his shoulder to see Jensen smiling at him. Jared sipped his water as Jensen sat beside him and took his own lunch out of his rucksack. He rubbed the back of his neck and grinned at Jared, who smiled back. "You have the cutest dimples," Jensen said conversationally. Jared felt himself flush. He stared down at his hands and smiled softly to himself.

"Uh-uh, thanks, I guess," he spluttered. Jensen smiled.

"So, how was whatever boring classes you had today?"

"We had this awful substitute for French who threw erasers at everyone and yelled about his dead cat for about ten minutes and now I think I have a headache."

"Damn, that's shit." 

"I know, right? How was your day?"

"Tiring," groaned Jensen. "What've you got for lunch?" 

"Turkey sandwich, celery slices and a white chocolate bar," shrugged Jared. "What've you got?"

"PB&J, BBQ Pringles, a slice of my sister's birthday cake and a cookie."

"Is it a big cookie?"

"It's an average sized cookie," Jensen chuckled.

"Can I have some?" Jared asked, widening his eyes pleadingly. 

"I dunno, I like cookies," Jensen said. Jared pouted. "Luckily, I like you more." He handed Jared a paper bag, in which was a circular chocolate chip cookie, before he bit into his sandwich. Jared beamed at him, feeling his cheeks flush pink again.

"How was your sister's birthday?" he asked quietly.

"Good, good," Jensen replied. 

- - - - -

Jared banged his fist on the white door in front of him and sighed. He crossed his arms as he heard footsteps rush downstairs and watched the door fly open. Matt rolled his eyes at him as Jared continued to stare. "What?" Matt grunted.

"I have a problem," Jared said quickly. Matt raised an eyebrow questioningly. "I don't like lying."

"How is that a problem?" Matt asked. 

"Uh... so, Jensen invited me to go camping with him and Jeffrey on Saturday because I didn't want to go to his party and I told him that I'd ask my mom," Jared replied. "but, surprisingly, she said that I could go, so now I'm going to have to lie to Jensen."

"Why?"

"I can't go camping with him!"

"Why not?"

"For one, they're almost definitely going to be drinking, and I don't drink. Also, I'm gay and sharing a tent with two guys who I don't know if they're cool with it isn't the best idea."

"You haven't told Jensen yet?" Matt asked. "I thought you said he was my temporary substitute friend?"

"Well, he kinda acts like he is," Jared said. "But, no, I haven't told him."

"Well, are you going to?"

"I don't plan to."

"Why not?" Matt pressed. "He doesn't seem like the kinda guy who'd be a dick about it."

"Uh, well, when I came out at home, Jeff told me to watch out for Pellegrino and his friends and, well, technically Jensen is friends with Pellegrino and that lot. Plus, he's one of those baseball jocks and I know Rich has used the f-slur at least once, so I don't know how Jensen feels." 

"Did Jeff use Jensen's name?"

"No, he just said 'Pellegrino and his lot' but I think, to Jeff at least, Jensen counts as one of those lot. Jeff doesn't like him too much."

"So, what're you gonna tell him?"

"I dunno," Jared replied. "I'm thinking I just say 'no' and offer no explanation, as every explanation would either be a lie or something that may risk me being beaten up." 

"I wish you luck," Matt said. "I need to go eat, we've got pork belly ribs."

"Alright, bye then."

- - - - -

Jared saw Matt again on Friday after school. They went up to the small corner store not far from Matt's house to buy snacks before they commenced their movie marathon. Matt waited outside, while Jared plodded in. He chose a tube of Pringles, a bag of gummy bears, a pack of Maltesers and a large bottle of Pepsi. He took his items to the counter and bought a pack of strawberry gum to go with it. He packed them neatly into a blue plastic bag and handed the old woman behind the counter some money. He then padded towards the entrance of the shop. However, he paused at the shelves of newspapers beside the door when he saw Jensen outside, talking to Matt. Jared raised an eyebrow. "-so, he's here?" he heard Jensen ask.

"Yeah," Matt shrugged. "What's it to you?"

"I just wanted to know he's okay. I haven't seen him since Wednesday." 

"You keeping tabs on him now?"

"I can remember two days ago, buddy-boy. He is okay, though, right?"

"He's fine. We're getting snacks."

"Has-has he mentioned me at all to you?"

"I guess, why, feeling insecure?" sneered Matt. 

"Was just... curious." 

"Yeah, he mentioned how you wanted to go camping or something."

"Yeah, yeah, he never got back to me on that. D-Does he want to go?"

"He doesn't seem enthusiastic." 

"Wh-what? Why not?"

"His brother's warned him about you," Matt shrugged. 

"What? Why?" Jensen exclaimed. "Wait, is it cos I'm friends with Pellegrino? Cos, y'know, I'd never do-do what he did to you." 

"Mostly, yeah. Also, JT has suspicions that you may have issues with, like, LGBT kids and stuff."

"What? No! No, I don't have any issue with anyone for reasons like that!" Jensen said heatedly. Jared saw Matt nodded as Jensen backed away. Jared huffed and approached Matt, who jerked his head towards Jensen, who was getting into a truck with Rich. 

- - - - -

Jared next saw Jensen at a party at Ruth's home a week later. He had returned to walking around the school instead of just sitting in the library at lunch, primarily so Jensen couldn't find him, but also Jeff couldn't tease him, which made it harder for him to see Jensen. While Jared did find himself missing Jensen's laugh and the sound of his voice, he decided that it was for the best if he kept his distance.

 

 Ruth lived in a bungalow with a spacious garden on the corner of the street with an empty driveway. Ruth's immediate neighbours were also away, so there was less of a chance of a noise complaint. Jared sat on a wicker chair on her porch and sipped a sprite, trying to block out the sound of the blaring music inside, when he felt someone ruffle his hair. "How come ya're out here?" Jensen slurred drunkenly. 

"The- the loud music gave me a headache," Jared shrugged. 

"Makes sense, 's pretty loud." 

"'S too loud."

"So, what are you doing out here?"

"Just... sitting."

"Sitting?"

"Yeah, well, my mother isn't coming for another half an hour, so I came here to hide."

"Okay, well, I need to talk to you."

"About what?"

"I'm really, really sorry for whatever awful impression I gave you," Jensen said. "I-I've been trying to talk to you all week, but I guess our timetables just never crossed. I-I spoke to your buddy and he thinks- he said that you and your brother think I'm a piece of shit. I-I'm not; I'm your friend, remember?" 

"Y-Yeah." Jensen beamed.

"Good," he said. "W-Will you come back inside, for a bit?" Jared shrugged. He left his empty cup on the bench and followed Jensen into the living room. There were more people in the bungalow than Jared would have thought would fit. Most of them were in the garden outside, but a few were inside, dancing to the blaring music. Jensen pulled him onto the couch and sipped some sort of alcohol out of a red cup. "I-I'm staying the night," Jensen told him. "A-are you? You're friends with Ruth, right?"

"Uh... I guess, but I'd prefer stay at home."

"Right, right, cos pieces of shit like me are here."

"No! Because- because I like having my mother cook breakfast and knowing no drunk fool will puke on me in my sleep."

"Fair enough." 

 

  Jared let Jensen drape his arm around his shoulders and hum along with the music. "Y'know, I know you think - thought- I was a homophobic douche, but if no-one else was here, I'd totally suck your dick," Jensen said. Jared raised an eyebrow. "I mean it, I'd blow you- bet I'd be good, too." Jared pretended that his ears weren't red as a few girls behind him sniggered. "I-I have talent," Jensen told him. "I bet I do. You-you'd love it; you'd be my best friend then."

"You- you don't need to bribe me for friendship," Jared murmured. 

"Aw, sweetie," Jensen said, smiling. "You sure you don't want to go upstairs? I mean, there is no upstairs, but there's a bedroom somewhere." Jared shook his head as Jensen ruffled his hair. Whoever was behind them laughed again and Jared bit his lip. 

- - - - -

Jared woke to his mother lightly shaking him awake. He pulled his duvet up to his neck to cover his bare chest and smiled sleepily at her. "Morning," he said. He glanced over at Jeff's bed, where his brother was still sleeping. "Wh-what time is it?" 

"Just after eight," Mrs. Padalecki replied. "Your father's headed off to buy the Sunday paper, but then I thought we could go to the pool? Meg's excited."

"Sure," shrugged Jared. "Is that why you're waking me up?"

"No," Mrs. Padalecki said quickly. "I'm waking you up because that Jerry is back again." Jared snorted.

"It's Jensen, Mom, not Jerry."

"Oh, right, well, he's outside."

 

 Jared pulled on a sweater and some jeans before he met Jensen at the front door. Jensen's hair was stuck up awkwardly and he was wearing a coffee stained t-shirt. He looked half-asleep and more awkward than Jared had ever seen him before. "Hullo," Jared said. 

"Hey," Jensen said sheepishly. "You good?"

"I'm fine," Jared shrugged. "What brings you to my neck of the woods?" 

"So, um... Jeffrey has made it clear to me that I acted... strangely on Friday night and I wanted to apologise."

"It's fine, you were drunk."

"Yeah, but, that's not an excuse. I embarrassed you in front of kids you don't know and that was after I had to explain I wasn't a massive dickhead."

"It-it's fine," Jared sighed. "Look, I-I'm sorry you're always defending yourself all the time, I-I don't always see the best in people."

"Huh?"

"I-I'm by no means an optimist, so when Jeff told me you would act like a dick, I just accepted it without thinking of how I know you and know you're-you're not awful," Jared said, keeping his eyes glued to Jensen's trainers. He didn't see Jensen's grin, but he could swear he could hear it, and he blushed. 

"Alright, good," Jensen said. "I-I'll see you at lunch tomorrow, then?"

"Sure." Jared watched Jensen walk away and smiled to himself. 

Chapter Text

"Y'know," Jensen said as he wandered out of the conservatory, "I feel like we haven't hung out in ages ." He placed a blue tray on the garden table in front of Jared and grinned at him. Jared was wearing a green sweater vest and a pair of black jeans that hugged his ass too tightly, but they were the only thing he hadn't washed. Jensen was still in his gym clothes, not bothering to change when he returned home, and he had a black baseball hat on backwards. 

"Well, we've both had stuff going on," shrugged Jared, taking one of the coffee mugs off the tray. "You had that pre-series baseball event, the following party, an actual party, a Lit exam, a Valentine's party and a ton of baseball practice, while I had my own homework, my brother's birthday and I've been the only entertainment Matt has, so I suppose we didn't have time." 

"Yeah, I guess," sighed Jensen. "Anyway, this is good."

"Yeah, yeah it is," Jared agreed. "Thanks for having me over."

"No problem. So, how much homework did you get done at lunch today?"

"I finished my chem essay."

"Did you miss me?" Jensen inquired.

"Terribly. How was practice?"

"Tiresome," groaned Jensen. "Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it, but it doesn't half take away all of my energy." 

"Sounds fun." 

"Right. So, do you do anything, like... chess club or something?"

"No. It was just drama for me."

"Are you going to do the summer play?"

"Cinderella? No way," chuckled Jared. 

"I would," Jensen sighed. "My mother thinks I'd make a great Prince Charming, but I don't have the time."

"Do you play chess?"

"Uh... do I? No. Can I? Yeah." 

 

  Jensen's parents said goodbye to the boys on the patio when they headed out of the house to take Jensen's sister horse-riding. Jared laid on the hammock as Jensen kicked a soccer ball around the garden. There was a fountain in the centre of the lawn, which Jensen appeared to be kicking the ball towards. "What are you doing?" Jared questioned.

"I'm trying to score," shrugged Jensen.

"There's no net."

"The fountain counts."

"That's stupid."

"Gee, thanks. What're you doing?"

"Cloud watching."

"What are you, sixty?" scoffed Jensen.

"What are you, five?"

"Ouch."

 

  Jensen eventually landed the ball in the fountain and sat on the patio floor, in front of the hammock. He had a bag of doritos on the table that he was occasionally sticking his hand into, while Jared sipped his Sprite. "Hey, uh, Jensen," Jared said awkwardly, sitting up so his legs were dangling beside Jensen's head. "I-I need to tell you something." 

"What?" Jensen asked. "What is it, buddy?"

"I-I-I"

"Yo, J, breath," Jensen said hurriedly. "It-it's fine, whatever it is, it's fine."

"I-I'm-I'm gay." He bit his lip as he felt Jensen stare up at him. Jared felt himself scrunch his face together until Jensen's scrutiny. 

"That-that's great," Jensen said. "That-that's fine, great, awesome."

"I-I can go," Jared said quickly.

"No, no, no," Jensen retorted. "Stay. Stay. C'mon, we're friends and-and I appreciate that you trust me enough to tell me." Jared grinned. 

"No-no problem."

"No, clearly it's a big deal, so I appreciate it." 

"Thanks."

"Do-do you tell many people?"

"No, just-just the people I - I thought were worth telling."

"Well, if it's that much of a secret I appreciate you telling me about it. I get why you think cos I'm friends with all those assholes doesn't mean that I'm homophobic. Not that Rich is. Or Jeffrey. I mean, Pellegrino isn't either, but he uses that sort of language, thinks it makes you less of a man and shit. Which it doesn't. You're cool regardless of who you like. I still think you're a man."

"Uh... thanks, I think," Jared muttered. "I-I should go. Thanks for letting me hang out." 

- - - - -

"So, he was... cool?" Matt questioned. He and Jared were in his room, sitting on his bed and he was playing GTA while Jared watched. "Like, cool about it? So, what's the problem?"

"No," Jared muttered. "He said he was cool about it, but he gave me this speech about how his friends think being gay makes you less masculine and it-it"

"It what?"

"It made me realise that Jensen has his persona too. Don't get me wrong, he's a nice friend, but he stands by and watches Pellegrino do his thing and he has that baseball player reputation you were so impressed by that he has to uphold, so maybe hanging out with the gay kid made him question if it effected his masculinity." 

"I-I guess," Matt sighed. "None of my friends are jocks, but from what my cousin's told me, they can be cocky assholes who only care about image and parties and sex."

"I dunno about the sex part, but self-image and parties do seem to be important to Jensen and his friends."

"I'm sure it'll blow over," Matt murmured.

"Hey, uh... you know when you like a girl, how-how can you tell?"

"I dunno," Matt shrugged. "I feel- feel different when they're around me and I itch to talk to them and I find myself blushing and over-thinking when I interact with them."

"Do-do you think I act like that around Jensen?"

"Do you think you might like Jensen?"

"I-I dunno. I've known you and Jake for so long I can't remember feeling elated when making a new friend, but I can't pin what I feel-feel to any other experience." 

"Maybe you do like him," shrugged Matt. "Does it matter?"

"I-I dunno, but I feel like it would matter to him."

"Then-then don't tell him," Matt sighed. "Look, usually I'd tell you to go for it, right? Kiss the guy and go for milkshakes or whatever, but if you think it'll end that badly for you, maybe you shouldn't. See how it goes for a couple of days, right?"

"Yeah, yeah, good idea." 

- - - - -

Jared didn't see Jensen on Monday, but he wasn't surprised. On Tuesday, he had a ham and cheese sandwich that his father had hurriedly put together for him, and he ate it in the library again as he had a few math problems he needed to finish before seventh period. He was flicking through the pages when he felt someone ruffle his hair. "Hey, Jay," Jensen murmured, sitting beside him. "Good weekend?" Jared shrugged. "My sister was in charge of making lunch again today," Jensen told him, "so, I've got a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich and a weird star shaped cookie thing."

"What type of cookie?"

"It's gingerbread, basically, but it's covered in pink icing and weird chocolate sprinkles." 

"I've got a chocolate bar," Jared murmured. "No fancy sprinkles."

"Do you like things with fancy sprinkles?"

"Not really."

"What do you like?"

"Uh... cheeseburgers, waffles, pancakes, fries, all the good stuff." 

"Would-would you like to go out for waffles with me after school?" Jensen asked. Jared stared at him; he was grinning from ear to ear and he was staring back at Jared expectantly. Jared studied his smile; it was forced, not Jensen's natural, easy-going smirk. Jared bit his lip and shook his head.

"What've I ever done to you?" he asked. Jensen widened his eyes. "You-you don't have to like it, but what the fuck?"

"Wh-what are you talking about?" Jensen asked. Jared stood up and forced his things into his rucksack. 

"If you don't like that I'm gay, fine, whatever, be uncomfortable about it, but why the fuck do you think you get to make fun of me for it? What've I ever done to you?" Jensen stared at him as he rushed out of the library. 

- - - - -

Jared saw continued to see Jensen at lunch, but he didn't talk to him. On Tuesday, he ate in the canteen with Ruth, but as soon as Jensen and Jeffrey joined them, he left the room. On Wednesday, he returned to the library. Mere minutes before the bell sounded, Jared plodded out of the library, only to run into Jensen, who smirked at him. Jared ducked under his arm and padded towards his classroom. On Thursday, he ate outside, by the bike shed, but Jensen and Rich walked that way to get to detention, so Jensen let Rich go ahead so he could try to speak to Jared, but Jared put his headphones in and ignored him.

On Friday, Jared had to eat in the canteen as his English teacher forced them in and didn't let them leave as a drama exam was going on. Jensen sat opposite him and smiled. "Jay," Jensen said lowly. Jared ignored him and ate his mashed potatoes. "Jay, look, I-I wasn't making fun of you."

"Right."

"Really, Jay, I wasn't."

"Right, so just after I come out to you, you decide to pretend to ask me out while smirking."

"Look, uh, I wasn't smirking devilishly, I was just- I was nervous."

"If I make you that uncomfortable, leave me alone." 

"No-no you don't make me nervous-just-just the idea of-"

"Leave me alone, Ackles," Jared huffed. 

Chapter Text

Jared found himself wishing more and more that Matt would come back to school. His classes felt a lot worse without his friend in them, lunchtimes were awkward and lonely, and he felt that he had no one to talk to. Jared saw Matt outside of school a couple of times, but Mrs. Padalecki didn't think it was a good idea for him to be over there a lot and Mrs. Cohen had Matt basically under house-arrest, so they never really did anything but play video games in Matt's room anyway. 

 

Someone Jared did see was Ruth. Now Jeffrey was preoccupied with basketball, she had more time on her hands, which she chose to spend with Jared, in the corner of the canteen, her eyes glued to her phone. 

 

"Did Mr Fullman miss me?" she asked as she threw herself onto the seat opposite Jared.

"No, but geography certainly was a bore."

"When isn't it? Anyway, what's for lunch?"

"Burger and beans," Jared replied.

"Nice. I think I'll stick to the salad bar."

"Fair enough."

"So, do you like baseball?"

"Do I- uh... I guess." 

"Ackles has asked me to invite you to watch him play baseball on Friday."

"Why would I want to do that? He's a dick."

"No, he's not," sighed Ruth. "Rich's a dick, Ackles' is just annoying." 

"Why does he care if I watch his match, anyway? We-we're not friends anymore."

"What are you, six? Who cares? Look, are you going to or not?"

"I-I guess it wouldn't hurt."

- - - - -

Jared wore a baggy t-shirt and a blue baseball cap on Friday. He was tying his shoelaces in his room when Jeff walked in. "Where are you going, JT?" Jeff questioned, raising an eyebrow.

"Uh... baseball match," Jared replied. "I'm surprised you're not going too."

"I've got a date." 

"Oh."

"Since when do you care about school sports?"

"Uh... I went to your football match, remember?" Jared said.

"Yeah, but that was for your buddy, you didn't care. You barely care about the Cowboys."

"So?"

"So, why are you off to watch a baseball game I know you don't care about?" Jeff asked.

"I dunno, fun," shrugged Jared.

"Look, JT, don't play dumb, alright," Jeff sighed. "I know you've been hanging out with Pellegrino's slimy buddies. They're not good for you, Jared, they're not worth your time." 

"I'm fine, Jeff," Jared snapped. Jeff rolled his eyes and left the room. 

 

 Jared had his wallet in his back pocket and had his rucksack on his back as he bounded downstairs. He was close to the door when he heard Mrs. Padalecki calling him. Jared rolled his eyes and wandered into the kitchen. Jeff immediately pushed past him and Jared heard him run upstairs as he leant against the counter. "What is it, Mom?" he asked. 

"Jared, your brother says that you have concerning new friends?"

"What do you mean?"

"He seems to think that the new people you're hanging around with can be violent and that they're not, uh... very nice people."

"I-I wouldn't say I'm friends with the kids, but they're not too bad. You've met Jensen, right?"

"Yes, yes, he seemed very polite, but it's still worrying you spend all this time with these older kids. They're going to leave for college before you and then you're going to be eighteen and you'll have to make new friends all over again."

"What about Matt?"

"He's still suspended." 

"JT, can't you just keep to hanging around with nice kids your own age?" 

"I'm gonna go," Jared said.

"At least think about what I said," sighed Mrs. Padalecki. Jared nodded.

 

  Jared sat with Ruth in the stands for the game. He had a large soda and a hot dog again, which he dedicated his attention to. "You know we're not actually going to win, right?" Ruth asked softly. "They're so much better than us."

"I don't care," Jared sighed. "I just want to find out why Jensen wants me here." 

"Are you okay? You seem... bitter."

"My mother doesn't think it's 'healthy' for me to hang around Jensen and Jeffrey as they're older than me and they'll leave for college before me."

"That's kinda dumb."

"I know, right? Anyway, she wants me to stop hanging around them."

"Well, she can't stop you from hanging around them in school, can she?" scoffed Ruth. "Not that it's really her business anyway."

"Yeah, we're not doing any illegal, just sitting in the library."

"Forget about it, soon she'll turn her attention to something else." 

 

  Surprisingly, their school did win the baseball match. Jared saw Jensen celebrating amongst the sea of blue players on the field and smiled. He liked Jensen's smiles, they made him look more attractive than he already did, but he was slightly guilty for mentally complimenting Jensen as he was pretty sure the guy was somewhat homophobic. "Should we go down and congratulate them?" Ruth asked. Jared shrugged. He followed her down to the field, where Jeffrey was clapping Jensen on the back. "Well done, Ackles," Ruth said. "You weren't half as pathetic as we thought you'd be."

"Gee, thanks," Jensen said, rolling his eyes.

"Good job, buddy," Jeffrey said. "I'm going to go and tackle Robbie now."

"Okay." Jared watched as Jeffrey and Ruth rushed over to the sea of players and widened his eyes as Jeffrey tackled Robbie to the floor. "This isn't football," Jensen muttered. 

"Yeah."

"So, you came?"

"Yeah."

"Uh... look, I-I didn't want to offend you, Jay."

"Why did you think some straight guy rambling about guilt about being gay would be taken in the right way?"

"Uh... that wasn't what was going on," Jensen said. "First of all, I'm not straight. I-I asked you out and told you I'd suck your dick, that should've been enough of a hint."

"N-No, I saw you making out with a girl at Jeffrey's party."

"So, I'm bi."

"I didn't know that," Jared mumbled, feeling bad.

"I don't try to hide it," shrugged Jensen. "Look, I wasn't uncomfortable at the concept of you being gay, I was just nervous cos I thought you'd picked up on the signs that I- I thought you were pretty cool. Clearly not."

"Oh, uh... sorry."

"It's fine," Jensen said dismissively. "We're good now, right?"

"Yeah, yeah, we're good."

"Good. So, uh... the team and I are going to Denny's after this and I know a few of the guys are bringing their girlfriends, so, uh... do you want to come?"

"No thanks," Jared replied. "I-I think I'm gonna head home."

"Oh, okay," Jensen murmured softly.

"But, uh... if you want to go for pizza tomorrow, that-that'd be cool," Jared said hurriedly. Jensen beamed. 

- - - - -

Jared met Jensen outside the mall at exactly one o'clock. He had worn the nicest jeans he could find and smiled at the older boy, who was wearing a smart, black shirt and a pair of slightly ripped blue jeans. "Hey, Jay," Jensen said, waving. "How're you?"

"Fine," Jared shrugged. "How're you? How's your weekend going?"

"I'm still kinda tired from the game yesterday, but other than that, I'm great. So, uh... do you want me to lead the way?"

"Yeah, sure."

 

  Jensen took Jared to a pizza restaurant on the first floor of the mall. They sat in a booth in the corner and sipped orange juice as they studied the menu. "Do you have a preference?" Jensen asked. Jared shook his head.

"I just like pizza in general." 

"Good answer," chuckled Jensen. "I like all the toppings, personally, but my sister hates anything but pepperoni."

"Sounds like my brother," Jared said. 

 

  Jared enjoyed his BBQ chicken pizza. He didn't understand half of what was on Jensen's, but Jensen seemed to enjoy it, too. Jared particularly enjoyed Jensen's company; he was quick-witted, able to make a joke about pretty much anything, and seemed genuinely interested in what Jared had to say. Jared was put-out when he realised that it was nearing six and that he needed to head home for dinner. "Want me to drive you?" Jensen offered. "I don't mind." Jared smiled. He clambered into the passenger's seat of Jensen's car and listened to Jensen's whistling as they drove.

 

"Thanks for coming out with me," Jensen said, once they had arrived at Jared's house. Jared shrugged. "I-I had a good time," Jensen continued as Jared unbuckled his belt. "Do-do you think you'd want to go out again?"

"Yeah," Jared said, smiling. Jensen rubbed his knee and grinned. It was a real smile this time, a great big, doey-eyed grin and Jared felt his heart race. "Thanks," he said, jumping out of the car.

"I'll see you around, yeah?" Jensen called. Jared nodded and plodded back into his house. 

Chapter Text

Jared was elated when Matt returned to school. He smiled when he walked into second period history and glanced at his notes. "Settle down," snapped their teacher. "Settle down. Mr Cohen, I trust you've been keeping up?"

"Uh, yeah, yeah," Matt said. He pulled his book out of his rucksack and smiled at Jared. "I've done all the homework." The history teacher nodded and resumed writing on the whiteboard as Matt glanced down at Jared's textbook. "Hey," he muttered. "What're we doing?"

"Just writing down a summary of this paragraph about George the Third," Jared shrugged. "It shouldn't take long."

"It won't take me long or it doesn't take Jared long?"

"I don't know, I've tried to work out the difference between out writing speeds."

"Shut up," groaned Matt.

"So, um... where have you been since this morning? Jake said he saw you by the office before homeroom."

"Yeah, I was stuck with the vice-principal and fucking Pellegrino, oh, and my Mom, cos she refused to let me be in a room with Pellegrino." 

"Sounds like a great group of people. I'm sorry I missed it," Jared said dryly. Matt rolled his eyes. 

 

  Jared and Matt were already half-way through their BBQ chicken and mashed potatoes when Jensen slumped onto the seat opposite Jared and grinned. "Afternoon, chaps," he said. "How's things?" Jared bit his lip as he felt Jensen's knee his hit own and shrugged. 

"Goo'," Matt said, through a mouthful of food. "Tirin', though."

"Did you do all your homework like a good boy?" Jensen questioned. "Robbie said Pellegrino did, like, one page for English and Potter went off on him for almost twenty minutes."

"Well, I did all my work, so I didn't have that," Matt said. "I did annoy my chem teacher by being an essay ahead however, which is new for me."

"Ooh," Jensen chuckled. 

"My chem teacher set gummy bears on fire," Jared said, before taking a bite of chicken. "It was funny, but I don't know what it had to do with the mass of atoms." 

"Oh, don't complain," scoffed Jensen. Jared rolled his eyes. 

"How was your day?" he asked.

"Boring," Jensen groaned, "and I've got baseball practice after school, so I'm going to be exhausted when I get home, but then I have to go and watch my cousin's swimming competition." 

"I've got to go and help my mother go cheese shopping after school," Matt said. 

"What?" Jensen questioned. "What the fuck is cheese shopping?"

"Shopping for cheese, clearly," scoffed Matt. Jensen rolled his eyes. "My grandparents are coming down this weekend and my grandmother likes to have cheese and grapes with her wine."

"Like, a cheeseboard?" Jared asked.

"Yeah, pretty much," Matt said. 

"Sounds fancy."

"And snobbish," added Jensen.

"Shut up," snapped Matt. 

"What's the chicken like, anyway?" asked Jensen. 

"Not as dry as usual," Jared replied.

"Great, well, I'm going to eat. See ya later, kids." Jared rolled his eyes as Jensen strode towards the front of the canteen.

"So I see you're friends again," Matt said in a sing-song voice.

"Yeah, yeah e-everything's great on that front," Jared told him. Matt nodded. 

- - - - -

Jared was partnered with Jake for his English project, for which they had to research a poem on war and give an oral presentation. Jared wasn't looking forward to it as, despite his efforts in the play, Jared did not enjoy public speaking and his English classroom was so small that pretty much every eye in the room would be on him. Once the bell sounded to signal lunch, he lingered in the classroom and approached the front desk. "Uh... is there any way I could just write my project in essay form?" Jared asked the teacher. "Or, uh, can we record ourselves reading it and send that to you."

"No, Jared," his teacher replied. "The assignment is to present it to the class. Oracy work is just as important as your written work."

"But-but neither Jake nor I are very good at that," Jared said, "and- and what if we get laughed at?"

"I've been teaching this class for many years, Jared, and never once has a student been mocked for their war presentations." Jared sighed and plodded out of the classroom. 

 

  Jared led Jake to Jeff's car after the last bell sounded. Jeff was already sat on the bonnet, talking to one of the cheerleaders, who were dressed in their uniform, ready for practice, so Jared just nodded at him and smiled. Jeff unlocked the car and didn't say anything as Jake followed Jared into the back of the car. "Did your mother tell you when you needed to be home?" Jared questioned.

"She just said 'not too late'," shrugged Jake. 

"Is she expecting you to have a ride home?" Jared asked. "I don't know if we can do that today."

"I'll text her when we're ready and see what happens," Jake replied. "My dad might pick me up on the way home from work." 

"Alright."

"How long does your brother usually take?"

"Depends who the girl is," sighed Jared. 

 

  Jared and Jake had chosen their poem and were trying to dissect as many metaphors and similes as they could when there was a knock on the door. "JT, Jerry's here again," Mrs. Padalecki called. Jared chuckled and rolled his eyes.

"For the last time, Mom, it's Jensen," he said.

"I know, I know," Mrs. Padalecki said, sticking her head around the door frame, "but it's funny to call him Jerry." 

"I doubt he'd think so," Jared muttered. "I'll be back," he told Jake. Jake nodded as Jared stood up and padded to the front door. He pulled it open to reveal a very red, very sweaty, very smiley Jensen. "Hullo," Jared said. Jensen nodded.

"How're you?" he asked.

"Good. How're you? How was practice?"

"I'm fine, practice was tiring but, y'know, fine. What're you up to?"

"Just homework."

"Anything interesting?"

"No," Jared grumbled. "Just this stupid, bloody oral presentation."

"Could be worse."

"Not for me... or Jake."

"Jake?"

"He's a friend of mine, the one in the band. I swear I've told you about him."

"You might've done, I dunno. Is he cool?"

"Not in the sense that you'd consider cool, but he's a good friend."

"Sweet. So, you're not free, I take it?"

"No, sorry."

"It's cool, we can reschedule."

"Did we have plans?"

"I was going to invite you to make plans, it's cool. I'll see you at lunch tomorrow?"

"Yeah, alright."

"Good, see ya." 

- - - - -

Friday was the coldest day Jared had experienced in a while. He walked out of school with Matt, intending to wait outside the gate for Mr Cohen to arrive when he felt someone ruffle his hair. He turned around to see Jensen smirking at him. "Afternoon, boys," he said. Jared rolled his eyes. "Need a ride? I saw your brother already left." 

"No, my dad's coming," Matt said shortly.

"Well, alright then. Jay?"

"I'm going with Matt."

"All night?"

"Yeah." 

"Damn, I'd hoped we could get waffles."

"Not today, sorry," Jared murmured.

"Yeah, piss off, Ackles," Matt said. Jensen rolled his eyes.

"Damn, boy gets one suspension and thinks he can grow a pair," he chuckled. Jared snorted. "Hey, gimme your phone," Jensen said.

"Huh?" Jared puzzled.

"Give me your phone real quick," Jensen said. 

"Okay," Jared said slowly. He handed Jensen his phone and watched as he typed something.

"Are you looking at porn or something?" Matt asked.

"No, just giving Jared my number so I don't have to chase him every time I need to talk to him," Jensen shrugged.

"And what if I never text you?" Jared asked. "Then you'll never get mine."

"You will, you'll miss me too much." Jared rolled his eyes, before he watched Jensen rush back into the school parking lot. 

 

 Jared made it two measly hours before he texted Jensen. He and Matt sat in the living room on Matt's old, grey couch while Jared watched Matt playing video games and eating popcorn when Jared decided that maybe it'd be worth messaging him. He just sent some generic greeting, only to get a stream of emojis from Jensen in return. Jared scoffed. "Huh?" Matt questioned.

"Jensen sent me a winking face, bacon, three trees and a cat all in emoji form." 

"You- you still think you like him?" 

"Yeah. Yeah, pretty much," Jared said weakly. 

"You need a better taste in guys, dude."

"You were all over him a few months ago."

"Yeah, when he was the cooler older guy on the baseball team who wanted to hang out with us," Matt muttered. "Now he's a candidate for your first boyfriend and I don't approve." 

"Well, luckily for me, I don't need your approval," Jared mumbled, texting an upside down smiley face and a sheep back to Jensen.

"But will you feel right knowing your best friend is put-out?"

"I could live with it."

 

  Jared spent almost three hours texting an array of emojis, small talk, random knock knock jokes and pictures of snakes to Jensen, before he was tackled by Matt. "What the hell?" Jared growled.

"I. WANT. ATTENTION," demanded Matt. "Gimme."

"Just play your game," Jared sighed.

"Gimme your phone, Jay," Matt said. Jared groaned as Matt grabbed his phone out of his pockets and threw it onto the floor. Jared watched it slide under the TV stand and groaned. 

- - - - -

  Jared met Jensen outside of his house on Sunday afternoon. Jensen arrived in his car. He was wearing a loose, black t-shirt and another backwards baseball cap. He smirked at Jared as Jared jumped off of his front wall. "Morning, buddy," Jensen said. "You ready to go?"

"Yeah, sure. What-what are we doing today? Waffles?"

"Unfortunately for us both, my mother is insistent that I finish some work, so we're off for another date with my back garden."

"Really?" chuckled Jared lightly. Jensen shrugged. Jared slipped into the front of the car as Jensen turned down the radio.

"Good day?" Jensen asked. Jared shrugged.

 

  As described, Jensen and Jared spent a few hours sitting on the hammock in Jensen's garden. Jared drank coffee and listened to Jensen complain as the older boy flicked through his history textbook, struggling to make any notes on the Great Depression. "It's not hard, Ackles," Jared sighed. "Just read the material."

"You're too damn distracting," Jensen told him.

"Well, I can go home, if you'd like," Jared said. Jensen scowled.

"No, no you stay here until I finish this."

"I don't know how long that will take and I need to return to my family eventually."

"Or you could stay here, as, like, my hostage."

"What, you'll hold me for ransom?"

"Yeah."

"You're evil."

"No, I'm adorable." 

 

  Jensen was close to finishing the conclusion of his essay when they heard someone knock on the fence. Jared glanced up and flushed, seeing Pellegrino and a girl with long, pink hair smiling mockingly at them. "Oh, look, Jensy has got himself a study buddy," chuckled Pellegrino. "Isn't that cute?"

"Do you want something, Marky, or do you just like showing off that you know where I live?" snapped Jensen. Pellegrino rolled his eyes.

"Are you embarrassed about your little boyfriend, JJ?" Pellegrino teased. "I don't blame you; he isn't a looker." 

"Go away."

"Aw, don't you love me anymore?"

"Why are you here?"

"Have you seen Jeffery? We were supposed to hang out at the park and he never showed."

"Well, he's not here."

"Alright, I'll see you, Ackles." Jensen rolled his eyes. Jared watched as Pellegrino and the girl walk away and smiled at Jensen. 

"Wow, you actually stood up for yourself."

"I always do," Jensen said.

"Yeah,  but, to Pellegrino."

"You'd be surprised, Jay-boy, I'm more valiant than you'd like to think." 

"Alright." 

"Hey, uh... it didn't bother you that he called you my boyfriend, right? He's a dick like that. He does it all the time, but he's not actually homophobic."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I'm still hanging around him and loads of people know I'm bi so he probably does."

"Right." Jensen rolled his eyes, clearly not believing that that was good enough for Jared, but Jared didn't say anything. 

- - - - -

  Jared was held back after math on Monday to discuss the idea of peer tutoring, but Jared told him that he couldn't as he had so much other homework and didn't have enough time. Once he was allowed to leave, Jared rushed downstairs to the library. He turned the corner and raised an eyebrow when he saw Jeff glaring at Jensen and Jeffrey, who were standing in the entrance to the small room. "What's your deal, Padalecki?" Jeffrey asked. "What've we done to you?"

"Just keep away from my brother, alright, dickhead?" snarled Jeff. Jared shook his head from where he was hidden at the corner. 

"What have we done? We're nice to Jared; Jensen's his friend," Jeffrey argued.

"I've seen the pictures of your little parties, okay?"

"What do you mean?" Jensen questioned, crossing his arms.

"I've seen pictures of you online with little clothes on and alcohol and I'm pretty sure someone was smoking weed in the background. He's sixteen, dumbasses, leave him out of it."

"Look, we never forced Jared to smoke weed or drink; he doesn't do either of those things." 

"Yeah, I know, but if he's around you so much, he might start to." 

"What do you want?"

"In an ideal would, I want you to and Pellegrino to stay the hell away from Jared, but if all I can get is you stop taking him to shitty parties, I'll go with that."

"Alright, alright," Jeffrey said quickly. "No more parties."

"And keep the booze from him, you're also underage and all that shit," demanded Jeff.

"Look, I'm not going to change my drinking habits," Jensen sighed, "but if it makes you feel any better, I'll keep my booze away from Jared." Jeff raised his eyebrows and strode away. Jared counted to ten in his head, breathing quickly, as he watched Jeffrey walk away and Jensen pad into the library, before he turned the corner. 

 

 Jared sat opposite Jensen when he got to the library. Jensen grinned at him and bit into his sandwich as Jared took his own baguette out of his rucksack. "Where've you been?" Jensen questioned. Jared shrugged.

"Got held back in math," Jared replied. "The teacher wanted me to do this peer support thing for kids who find math challenging, but I just don't have the time."

"Good," Jensen said, "because if you took it, we'd have even less time to hang out." 

"True, true," Jared murmured. "Uh... do you want to do something on Saturday?"

"Oh, uh, sorry, I can't," Jensen muttered. "I've got plans."

"Oh, alright. What-what about Sunday?"

"I'll probably be hungover from Saturday."

"Oh."

"Hey, I-I got you a cookie," Jensen said, grinning. Jared raised an eyebrow. Jensen slid a paper bag in his direction, still beaming. Jared rolled his eyes and broke the gooey cookie in two, offering the smaller fraction to Jensen, who shook his head. 

 

 "I spoke to your friends today," Jeff said as Jared slipped into the car. 

"Who?"

"Pellegrino's sidekicks who you continue to associate yourself with."

"Leave Jensen alone."

"Look, Jay, they go to stupid parties with stupid seniors and get stupid drunk and you deserve better." 

"I don't drink."

"That's not the point."

"What is the point?" Jared exasperated.

"They're not good people, JT, they do stupid things and take you to places you shouldn't be at." 

"Right, right."

- - - - -

"Hey, shaggy, you look glum," Ruth said, slumping onto a seat opposite Jared in the canteen. 

"Shaggy?" Jared questioned.

"You clearly need a haircut."

"Ouch."

"Where's your sidekick today?"

"Matt? He's in detention."

"What happened?"

"Apparently he got into a fight in the back of his English class," Jared shrugged.

"Damn," Ruth said. "Hey, have you seen Jeffrey or Ackles today; they're normally with you, right?"

"I-I haven't. Hey, um... do you know what Jensen's plans for Saturday are?"

"Uh, he's probably going to the party," Ruth shrugged.

"Party? What party? Who's throwing it?"

"It's just a party, at Rich's house, why?"

"I dunno."

"Right," Ruth said slowly.

"A-are you going?"

"On Saturday, yeah."

"Do you think you could get me in?"

"Oh, definitely. Meet me outside the school again at eight." 

"Thanks." 

- - - - -

  Jensen was very drunk by the time that Ruth's mother dropped Ruth and Jared off at Rich's house. He was draped over Jeffrey and singing drunkenly along to whatever was playing on the speaker. Ruth snorted and followed Robbie into the kitchen, while Jared followed the sound of Jensen's laughter to the top of the stairs. Jared ran a hand through his hair and smiled at him, but Jensen and Jeffrey glowered. "Uh... hello," Jared muttered. 

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Jeffrey asked. "Your brother is going to kill us."

"Wh-why? I-I'm here with Ruth." 

"He'll blame us."

"H-He's fine," Jensen said. "J-Just don't get ya picture taken, okay, JJ?" Jared nodded. Jensen forced himself up from the floor, where he was practically on Jeffrey's lap, and winked. "Want a drink?"

"Idiot," snapped Jeffrey.

"Uh... can I have water?" Jared asked meekly. 

"Sure," shrugged Jensen. He rubbed the back of his neck and gripped Jared's wrist to tug him downstairs towards the kitchen. 

 

 Jared liked Jensen and he would never encourage him to drink, but he found drunk Jensen to be amusing. He took his shirt off, hugged a few people, danced around, threw an apple at Jared and spilled beer over himself. "I-I need my JJ," Jensen murmured, pushing Ruth away so he could grab Jared.

"I think you need some air, buddy," Jared said quietly. 

"Okie dokey J-rod," Jensen said. Jared rolled his eyes and tugged Jensen out of the kitchen, through the cold conservatory and to the garden. Jensen smiled and kissed the back of Jared's neck as they approached the corner of the garden. 

"You tired, Ackles?" Jared asked. Jensen rolled his eyes.

"It's too cold, out here," he said, "let's go in the shed." Jared rolled his eyes and followed Jensen into the small, wooden shed behind them. Jared sat on the workbench and watched as Jensen chuckled. "You-you're great," Jensen told him, "you're fun and kind and great." 

"Gee, thanks, you're great too."

"Love you," Jensen said, leaning in to kiss Jared. Jared put a hand to Jensen's chest to stop him. "Don't you love me too?" Jensen asked.

"I will not answer that while you're drunk."

"Alright, well, if I can't kiss you, I'll prove I love you another way," Jensen said, smirking. Before Jared could realise what was happening, his trousers and underwear were pooled around his ankles and Jensen was on his knees.

 

 It was the most pleasure Jared had ever felt in his life; Jensen was soft and enthusiastic, the warm heat of his mouth accompanied by moans of joy. Jared ran a hand through his hair as Jensen seemed to chase his climax, his tongue becoming more hurried. "Sto-stop... stop," Jared moaned. Jensen pulled away with a 'pop' and widened his eyes.

"Di-did I do something wrong?" he asked.

"N-no, but I-I'm nearly there."

"Oh, good," Jensen said, before resuming his previous actions. 

 

 Once Jensen had pulled away, he helped Jared re-dress and ran a hand through his hair. "I-I hate to be 'that guy' but I have to go soon," Jared said, "Ruth's mother is coming to get us." Jensen nodded.

"T-text me later, yeah? Or-or tomorrow, once I-I'm better."

"Okay," Jared said, before he left the shed and headed back inside to find Ruth. 

Chapter Text

  Jared was first out of his English class after the bell sounded. Jake followed him,  tutting and shaking his head. "We have two days to finish this," Jake said, "and then we have to 'perform' it. That's bullshit." Jared nodded in agreement. Jake rolled his eyes and glanced down at his watch. "Look, I've gotta dash," he sighed. "Can I come over to yours later?" 

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Jared said. Jake nodded and strode around the corner, towards the staircase. Jared bit his lip as he strode down the corridor and almost walked into Ruth, who was jogging towards him. 

"Hey, JT," she said. Jared raised an eyebrow as she approached him. "Ackles wants to meet you by the bike shed." 

"Oh, alright, thanks," Jared said. 

 

  Jared strode out of the school and out to the parking lot. He saw Jeff and his blond friend helping two girls into his car and rolled his eyes, before he plodded down the walkway to the corner where the bike shed was. Jensen was sat on the roof, drinking from his water bottle. He smiled when he saw Jared and jumped to the ground. "Hey, Jense," Jared called, waving. He smiled back, but Jensen's expression turned cold. Jared frowned. "D-Did I do something wrong?" he asked timidly. "I-I didn't try to." 

"No, no," Jensen said quickly. "You-you didn't do anything; you're great."

"So, what's up?" 

"We need to talk," Jensen replied seriously. 

"Um... okay, wh-what about?"

"I-I'm sorry, okay," Jensen said. "Saturday was-was a mistake. I was drunk and not thinking and I shouldn't have touched you at all that night, let alone the way I did."

"Wait, what? A-are you saying I took advantage of you?" Jared asked. "I-I mean, I knew you were drunk, but I-I-"

"Relax, Jay," Jensen said quickly, "it's not your fault. I mean you're sixteen, man, you can't consent to the shit I did to you."

"I-I don't have an issue with it," Jared said smirking. 

"Well, I do," Jensen said crossing his arms over his chest. "And I-I don't think we should continue to do this." 

“Do what?”

"This between us, the pizza and waffles and garden dates.”

"Please don’t say that.” 

"Then what do you want me to say?" huffed Jensen. "I could apologise until I'm blue in the face, but it won't do anything; you're too young to consent and I was horny and cocky and ignored that and-and we were in a fucking grubby shed of all things." 

"I forgive you," Jared said quickly. "I didn't mind it, really."

"Why?"

"Because- because you're Jensen."

"What does that mean?"

"It means you- you care about me and you had no ill intentions and that - that it won't happen again unless- unless we both want it to."

"You have that much trust in me?" Jensen asked, smiling at him. Jared nodded. "We're not even technically dating."

"C-Can we be technically d-dating?" 

"Yeah," Jensen said, grinning, "sounds great." He slung his arm over Jared's shoulder and pressed his lips against the top of Jared's head. Jared felt a small smile creep onto his face as he playfully batted Jensen away.

- - - - -

Jared sat on the couch while Mrs. Padalecki cooked the burgers in the kitchen. Mr Padalecki and Jeff were also in the living room, their attention on the pre-season baseball game on the TV. Jared's attention, however, was on his phone. He spent about half an hour sending too many messages to Jensen, who was at his grandparents. Jared was rewarded for his efforts by receiving pictures of Jensen's grandmother's poodle. "Food," Mrs. Padalecki called. Jared rolled his eyes and told Jensen he appreciated the pictures of the dog. 

"Jared, come on," Mr Padalecki snapped. Jared rolled his eyes and jumped off the couch. He followed Jeff into the kitchen and collected his plate as he heard his phone ping.

"Who's that, now?" Mrs. Padalecki asked.

"Probably Jensen," Jared shrugged. "Or Matt, but probably Jensen."

"Oh, Jerry?"

"Yes, Jerry," Jared chuckled.

"You should keep away from him now that Pellegrino's back," Jeff told him darkly, "he might be into some crazy shit and things might not end up great for you."

"Surely Pellegrino's going to have too much schoolwork to have time to bother me? I mean, and he has baseball now, too." 

"I've got finals and track coming up and yet I have time to bother you," shrugged Jeff, "and I, unlike him, work hard enough to keep my GPA above two."

"I try to steer clear of Pellegrino anyway," Jared said. "He's not always around Jensen and when he is, I'm not."

"Good," said Mrs. Padalecki. "Now, go and eat."

- - - - -

  Jared and Matt were sat in the library, eating ham and cheese sandwiches, when Jared felt something hit the back of his head. He turned in his chair and glanced down to see a red eraser on the floor and scowled. "You alright?" Matt asked as Jared rubbed the back of his head. 

"Y-Yeah, I guess," Jared shrugged. He ran a hand through his hair as he heard hurried footsteps approach. 

"Hey, Jay, sorry about that," said Jeffrey. "I didn't mean to hurt you." He bent down and picked up the eraser as Jensen, who was stood beside him, chuckled. 

"Hullo to you to," sighed Jared. 

"Go away, we have homework to do," snapped Matt.

"Ouch, I'm hurt," said Jeffrey, "but it's fine, I'm headed to meet some guys anyway." 

"Can I stay?" Jensen asked. "I promise to be good."

"No," Matt snapped. "I need to concentrate."

"Jay?" Jensen questioned.

"Sorry, Ackles, but I've never seen Matt concentrate so much on history before, I don't want to ruin it."

"Alright, well, in case I don't see you tomorrow, I'm having a party after school on Friday for my birthday. Come, if you want, don't if you  don't, no pressure. Oh, and don't tell Jeff."

"Okay," Jared chuckled. "When's your birthday?"

"Monday, but I have family over all weekend so the party has to be Friday."

"Cool," shrugged Matt. "No go!"

"Alright, damn," Jensen said, sticking up his hands. 

- - - - -

Jared spent longer than he'd like to admit attempting to style his hair in the bathroom before he left on Friday night. "Is that hair spray?" Matt asked as he strode into the living room, where he had been waiting. Jared shrugged.

"That's a nice shirt, Jared, what's the occasion?" Mrs. Padalecki asked, dropping a throw blanket onto the couch beside Matt. 

"I told you, it's Jensen's birthday party," Jared said. 

"Do we need to buy him a present on the way?" Mrs. Padalecki asked.

"Uh... I dunno," Jared replied. "I-I guess."

 

  Mrs. Padalecki drove them to a small convenience store on the way to Jensen's house. Jared bought him a card with a cute bear in a blue bow tie and a box of chocolate, while Matt just got him a packet of sweets. Jared glanced at the flowers, some roses still on sale from Valentine's day, but he decided he didn't want to take a rose to Jensen in front of his mother. 

 

  Jensen was on the front porch, letting Jeffrey ruffle his hair, when Jared arrived. Jensen immediately beamed and pushed Jeffrey away so he could meet Jared on the steps. "You came!" he said excitedly. Jared smiled and pressed his chocolate to Jensen's chest. "What's this?"

"Early birthday present," Jared said. "Uh... sorry I didn't wrap it."

"It's cool," Jensen said dismissively. He nodded at Matt, who handed Jensen the sweets. "Uh... beer's in the kitchen, if you want it," Jensen told him. Matt nodded and strode inside the house. Jared waved to his mother, who appeared to be in the car watching them. He smiled as she waved back and drove off, out of sight. "Who was that?" Jensen asked.

"My mom," Jared shrugged.

"Cool."

"Where are your folks?" Jared questioned.  

"They're at my aunts," Jensen replied. "My cousin got her diving licence yesterday so they went out for food earlier with them and they're staying in a hotel nearby."

"Is your sister with them?"

"Yeah. Now, stop worrying about them and come inside."

"Uh... I don't want a beer."

"Then don't have a beer," Jensen shrugged. "Do you want a house tour? I can show you my room or something, if you'd like?" 

"Uh... sure. Is-is the dog here?"

"No, she's still with my grandparents. My parents are thinking of getting a dog when I go off to college, though, so maybe you can come round and walk it."

"Yeah, maybe." 

 

 Jared followed Jensen through the hallway and up the carpeted stairs. Jared had never seen the upper part of Jensen's house before and he wanted to take the time to inspect every picture on the wall and see if there were any drawings hung up on the fridge, but he couldn't. Instead, he tailed Jensen to his bedroom, which was in the attic. It was a dimly lit room with a three-quarter bed pressed up in the corner with green, silk sheets. His wardrobe was covered in baseball stickers and there were posters of various bands and football stars on the wall. There were clothes and shoes and a few books littering the floor and there was an IPad charging on top of a red bedside table. "Wanna sit?" Jensen asked. Jared shrugged and sat on the foot of his bed. Jensen locked the door and jumped onto the bed beside him.

"How much have you had to drink?" Jared asked him.

"Only about two beers," Jensen shrugged. "I'm not even buzzing yet."

"Do you plan on drinking more?"

"Maybe later," Jensen replied. "Hey, do you want to sleep over tonight? Jeffrey is."

"No thanks, my parents need me home. M-maybe another time, preferably when there's been less booze in the house."

"We can make that work," beamed Jensen. "My parents aren't big drinkers anyway." 

"So, what do you wanna do?" Jared asked. 

"Do you want to go downstairs and join the party?"

"Uh... do you want to?"

"We can hang up here if you want, for a bit longer," shrugged Jensen. "'S nice and quiet up here."

"Y-Yeah, that sounds good."

"Want me to put the radio on?"

"Sure," Jared said. Jensen leant over him to turn on the small portable radio on the windowsill, which softly played what sounded like a cello solo. Jared scooted closer to Jensen so he could rest his head on his shoulder and smiled at him. Jensen grinned and pressed his lips to the top of Jared's head. "C-Can I kiss you?" Jared stuttered. Jensen nodded and smiled as Jared moved in closer. Jared pressed his lips to Jensen's softer ones and soon relaxed into the kiss. Jensen placed a hand on Jared's shoulder as their tongues rubbed against one another. Jensen kept the kiss to a slow pace, his fingers slowly sliding down Jared's back, until Jared had to come up for air. Jared tackled him into a hug, pushing Jensen down onto the bed. Jensen wrapped his arms around Jared and rubbed his back.

"I don't wanna move," Jensen groaned. "But I'm the host, so I should go and talk to people." 

"Stay up here a little bit," Jared whispered. Jensen nodded and flipped them over so he was laying on top of Jared and kissing his neck.  Jared grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled him up so he could kiss him again. It was little more than a peck, but Jensen left Jared flustered anyway. 

 

 After a few minutes of kissing, Jensen pecked Jared's cheek and slid down the bed, so his head was rested on Jared's stomach. He pulled down Jared's jeans and underwear, letting his hardening prick bounce free. Jensen kissed teasingly along his thigh and stroked his back, before he enveloped the head of Jared's cock in his mouth. He slid his tongue over the slit and moved slowly along, encompassing more of Jared's prick into his mouth. 

 

 Jared took an embarrassingly small amount of time to finish, but Jensen didn't seem to mind. He panted as he pulled away and kissed Jared's thigh, a small smile on his face. "S-Sorry," Jared rasped out, as he struggled to catch his breath. Jensen raised an eyebrow.

"About what?" Jensen questioned. 

"I-I was um... I didn't give you notice that I was gonna-"

"It's good," shrugged Jensen. He maneuvered himself so he was beside Jared's feet. Jared clambered off the bed and adjusted his pants, before he slipped onto the floor. He inhaled softly and began to rub Jensen's thighs. "Don-Don't do that," Jensen muttered. 

"I want to," Jared said softly. 

 

  Jared knew that he wasn't as good as Jensen, probably due to lack of experience, but Jensen seemed satisfied nevertheless. Jared pulled away before Jensen finished, and let him finish on his own thigh. Jensen pushed Jared out of the way to use a discarded t-shirt to wipe up the mess, before he pulled up his sweatpants. "You're real special, Jay, y'know that?" Jensen said, pulling Jared into another hug. Jensen kissed his cheek and smiled. "But-but I've really got to go and be a host right now. D-Do you want to stay up here, where it's quiet, or do you want to come?"

"I-I'll come and try to find Matt."

"Alright."

 

 There were definitely less people at the party than Jared had expected. Many were sat at Jensen's garden table, drinking beer, like Matt, but there were a few people in the living room. Jeffrey and Jensen were in the living room, sitting on the couch and laughing loudly. Jared chose not to join them and just lingered in the kitchen, eating the Doritos Jensen had left out. 

- - - - -

 Jared was late to school on Monday. Jeff had gone ahead with some friends so he could see the track coach before homeroom, so Jared had had to ride with Mr Padalecki. However, Mr Padalecki had fallen back to sleep in the living room, so Jared and Meg had had to wake him up and wait for him to drink his coffee before they could be driven to school. Meg was panicking, because she had a test first period and didn't want to be accused of truanting. 

 

 Jensen was sitting on the steps outside the school when Jared arrived. He appeared to be biting his nails and occasionally glancing at his watch. He widened his eyes when he saw Jared marching up the steps and grinned. "You're here," he said brightly. Jared raised an eyebrow. "I waited by your homeroom and your buddy with the trumpet said he hadn't seen you all morning," Jensen explained. Jared nodded. "W-will you take a walk with me?" Jensen asked. Jared nodded again. He followed Jensen around the corner, towards the bike shed. 

"Did you have a good birthday?" Jared questioned. Jensen shrugged. "I meant to text you, but I was preoccupied with helping my dad and stuff."

"It's fine, the chocolate was enough."

"Did you enjoy your party?"

"Yeah... I guess. Um... did-did you?"

"Yeah."

"You don't have to lie, Jay, I was drunk, but not that drunk. I know what we did and-and we both know we shouldn't've."

"Do you regret it?" Jared asked harshly.  

"I-I dunno, Jay," Jensen sighed. "I feel like I should, but I don't, not really." 

"So-so we're not going to have to have an awkward break-up talk again?"

"Not if you don't want to," Jensen said shortly. "But, I-I did need to check if you were okay." 

"I'm fine."

- - - - -

Jared finished his French homework and slumped onto the armchair in the living room. Mr Padalecki was on the couch, his eyes on his laptop, and Mrs. Padalecki was rushing around the kitchen, cooking egg on toast for Meg before her dance practice. Jared rolled his eyes when he heard his phone ping. "Is that that Jerry kid again, Jared?" Mrs Padalecki sighed. 

"Uh... actually, yeah," Jared called. 

"You know," Mr Padalecki said, "you're spending a lot of time with that boy; is there something we should know?"

"What do you want to know?"

"Are you-are you seeing this boy?" Mr Padalecki asked.

"Leave the boy alone," Mrs. Padalecki called. 

"Um... I-I guess, yeah, maybe," Jared replied.

"Maybe?"

"Leave him alone," snapped Mrs. Padalecki,

 

  Jared padded upstairs to his room after Mrs. Padalecki and Meg left. He lay on his bed and stared up at his ceiling as he listened to the music on his IPod. He could hear Mr Padalecki growling at something downstairs, so he just turned the volume up so he couldn't hear it. He rubbed the back of his neck as he heard his phone ping. He smiled at the text from Jensen, but couldn't be bothered ti reply, so he called him instead. "Hey, Padalecki, how's things?" Jensen asked. 

"Pretty good," Jared replied. "How're you?"

"Bored. I've got a shit ton of algebra homework due tomorrow."

"I thought your last minute strategy always worked?"

"Well, you and your cute duck emojis are distracting me." 

"Sorry."

"Don't be sorry, I welcome the distraction, algebra bores me."

"Hey, so, I kinda told my parents we're dating."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"How did that go?"

"They want you to come over for dinner next week."

"Oh. Okay, cool. Tell your brother not to kill me."

"I'll make no promises, Jeff isn't happy. He thinks you'll influence me to be the next Pellegrino or something." 

"Well, I won't," Jensen said solemnly. 

- - - - -

 Jensen came to Jared's house for dinner on Wednesday after school. He wore a grey sweater, used gel to part his hair and kept his hands behind his back as he waited for the door to open. Mr Padalecki opened it and raised an eyebrow at him. "Yes, can I help you?" he questioned gruffly. He was tired and when he was tired, he wasn't sociable. 

"Uh, hello, sir, I'm Jensen. J-Jared invited me for dinner."

"Oh, right, you're the boy."

"Yes, sir." 

"I forgot that was today," Mr Padalecki sighed. "Come on in." Jensen smiled at him and followed him into the corridor. Jared was waiting on the foot of the staircase for him. He smiled when he saw him and waved.

"Hullo."

"Hey, Jay-rod, you good?"

"Yeah. How're you?"

"I'm fine."

"We're having lamb shank for dinner, so I hope you like that."

"Yeah, yeah, lamb's good. How-how's Jeff?"

"Still angry you're here, so be warned."

"Why does he hate me so much?"

"He's hated Pellegrino since their freshman year and pretty much all of his friends since then. Pellegrino's always been a bully and a class clown who wasn't actually funny and he seems to attract assholes like that. You and Jeffrey seem to be the only exceptions." 

"Did Pellegrino ever do anything to him personally?"

"I think so. In freshman year he was an issue. Jeff would come home and slam the door and our parents would spend weeks trying to get a name out of him. He's a nasty piece of work." 

"Yeah, well, soon he'll be gone and we won't have to put up with him," Jensen shrugged. Jared nodded and glanced over his shoulder as he heard the bathroom door shut. He saw Jeff at the top of the stairs, scowling.

 

  Jared sat beside Jeff at the table for dinner. Usually, they didn't bother with eating around the table, but Mrs. Padalecki insisted. She sat at the head of the table, her elbow slightly in Jared's way as he ate. Jensen sat opposite him, trying not to bother Meg or Mrs. Padalecki as he ate. "Jeff told us you were on the baseball team, Jensen, what's that like?" Mrs. Padalecki asked. 

"Tiring."

"Jeff played baseball in middle school," Mr Padalecki said. "He was quite good, too, if my memory serves me correctly."

"My hand-eye coordination has never been that great," Jeff murmured modestly.

"It's better than Jared's," piped up Meg. Jared rolled his eyes. 

"Poor Jared," chuckled Jensen. 

"You were in the play with Jared in the winter, right, Jensen?" Mrs. Padalecki asked. Jensen nodded.

"Uh, yeah, yeah, that's right." 

"Was that instead of football?" Mr Padalecki questioned.

"Uh, no, no," Jensen replied. "I've never played football, I'm too scrawny." 

"Do you watch football?"

"Yeah, yeah."

 

  Jared could tell that Jensen wasn't too interested in the conversation over dinner, but he tried to entertain Jared's parents. Once they had finished eating, Meg shuffled upstairs as Jensen excused himself. "Are you sure you don't want to stay a while?" Mr Padalecki asked him, "watch some TV?"

"I'd better be going," Jensen sighed, "my parents will be expecting me home soon."

"I'm going up to my room," Jared announced. Mr Padalecki nodded. Jared smiled at Jensen and waved as Jensen headed outside. 

 

 Jared was walking downstairs to get a drink from the kitchen when he heard Mrs. Padalecki yell outside. Curiously, Jared pulled the front door open and widened his eyes as he saw Jeff holding Jensen against Mr Padalecki's car. "JEFF!" shouted Mrs. Padalecki. "Leave the boy alone!" Jeff glanced over his shoulder at his mother and released the younger boy.

"I-I'm gonna go," Jensen said nervously. "Bye, Mrs. Padalecki, Jared." He strode off the driveway as Mrs. Padalecki pursed her lips.

"What was that?" she shouted.

"He's -he's a prick," Jeff said gruffly. "He's a cocky little prick who thinks he knows what he's doing, but he's just going to mess up Jared's life." 

"How?" Jared questioned.

"Just take my word on it," Jeff huffed.

"You know what, Jeff, if you don't like Jensen, that's fine, but you can't physically assault him." Jeff rolled his eyes.

- - - - -

Jared went to Jensen's house after school on Thursday. They sat on his hammock again and ate nachos and salsa while Jensen hurried through an essay for English. Mr Ackles was watching Jensen's sister horse ride, but Jared saw Mrs. Ackles glancing at them through the kitchen window. "I-Is she going to come and say hi?" Jared asked nervously. Jensen chuckled.

"I doubt it."

"Why?"

"She-she doesn't get us."

"What do you mean?" Jared puzzled.

"My parents don't- they're binary people. It's a generational thing, but-but they don't see sexuality as a scale; to them you're gay or straight and I must be confused if I say I'm bi," huffed Jensen. "I-I told them you were my boyfriend and my mother was confused because I've dated girls before and she was concerned. She wants me to go to therapy."

"A-and your dad?"

"He's seems to think that I should just be left alone to live my life and I'll eventually work it out," Jensen sighed. "I don't know if they'll ever come to terms with them, they'll just wait until I'm married or something, but they haven't kicked me out or anything."

"Do-do they think I'm a bad influence?"

"No, they're just concerned that I'm having gay panic," Jensen chuckled. Jared nodded. "It's not that bad," Jensen said hurriedly. "We can still stay the same and it doesn't effect me... much." Jared nodded again, unsure what to say. He shook his head as Jensen tried to feed him one of the nachos. 

"We need cheese," Jared said decidedly.

"I'll have that prepared next time."

"Good," Jared said, smirking. 

Chapter Text

Jared and Matt were stood beside Jeff's car after school, waiting for him to arrive so they could be driven home, when Jared felt something hit his back. He spun around to see Jensen smirking at him. "You're such a child," Jared scoffed. Jensen rolled his eyes.

"Can I borrow you, for a sec?" he asked sheepishly.

"I'll be back," Jared told Matt, before he plodded after Jensen, towards his car. Jared leant against the trunk as Jensen smiled at him. 

"Good day?" Jensen asked him.

"Yes..." Jared replied slowly, frowning. "What's this about?"

"You know you're my guy, right?" Jensen asked. "You know that I know this is exclusive and I don't want to change that, right?"

"Sure."

"Great," Jensen said, grinning. "Listen, uh... so, senior prom is coming up and Kim, one of my friends, has asked me to go with her."

"Oh."

"We're just going as friends, but, y'know, I'd understand why you'd have a problem with that."

"Uh... do-are you - do you like this girl, Jense?"

"She's my friend," Jensen said stiffly.

"Yes, but do you think she's attractive?"

"I think she's objectively attractive but I'm not attracted to her," Jensen replied. "Just cos I'm bi doesn't mean I like everyone... or that I'm likely to cheat."

"Hey, don't make this a sexuality thing!" flared Jared.

"What sort of thing is it then?"

"It's a 'apparently my boyfriend wants to go on a date with someone else' thing and that's weird."

"Being a date to a dance and going on a date are two separate things," Jensen said slowly. "Kim's my friend and she has no-one else to go with as Briana already asked Jeffrey. Besides, Pellegrino, Rich and Robbie will be there and there's probably an after party and my mother would love to take pictures of me in a suit."

"I'm sure she'd love to see you with a girl, too."

"She won't see Kim, we're meeting at the event. Look, I get why this worries you, but I swear I'm just going to hang out with my friends, okay? You can interrogate Jeffrey afterwards if you don't believe me."

"No, no, it's fine, I'll hang out with Matt or something," Jared sighed.

"Thanks, Jay, you're awesome," Jensen said brightly. Jared grinned. 

- - - - -

Jared didn't expect it to bother him so much, but he found that he was feeling a little left out as he sat in Matt's basement, staring at a laptop screen that was playing a movie. Jared had seen a few pictures of Jensen online and he had felt jealous when he saw Jensen in his suit, holding his arm out for Kim, the girl with short hair from his party. Jared decided to just turn his phone off so he didn't have to think too much about how his boyfriend was technically on a date with someone else. He felt kind of silly, knowing that Jensen didn't consider it a date, but he knew that other people might and as he and Jensen weren't publicly a couple, he was worried people might think Jensen was dating her, or say that he should date her.

"Do you think that he's gonna take you next year?" Matt asked, pulling Jared out of his thoughts. Jared raised an eyebrow. "Y'know, to the prom?"

"I doubt it," Jared replied. 

"He sounds like a shit boyfriend."

"He-he's not," Jared said softly. Matt rolled his eyes. "He's not, okay? Just -he -he just isn't that kind of person. He'll probably go with his friends."

"To hide the fact that he has a boyfriend?"

"I-I dunno. He-he's openly bi so I doubt it's that much of an issue."

"Maybe not to him, but people knowing you would fuck a guy and that your are dating a guy are two different things."

"I'm not fucking him," Jared mumbled.

"I didn't say you were. Point is, he's clearly hiding you from his friends, won't even look at you around Jeffrey and he's supposedly his best friend." 

"I know, I know, but, y'know, it's a new thing, so it-it might change by next year."

"Yet you don't think he'd take you to prom?"

"I doubt he'd want to be one of the few same sex couples at prom ever in this school. Jeff said he doesn't know anyone gay in a relationship in his class and the couple who went last year were humiliated."

"Humiliated?"

"Yeah, Jeff went with some cheerleader and said that there was these two boys holding hands and some prick covered them in punch and something that looked like mayonnaise or something to look like, y'know, cum." 

"Did the chaperones do anything?"

"I dunno, Jeff didn't hang around."

"Did he tell you this before or after you came out?"

"After. He said he'll beat up anyone who does anything like that to me, but I need to remember while our family's great, Texas is still a red state and some people are assholes. He thinks Mr James is homophobic."

"I wouldn't be surprised," Matt said darkly. 

"Right."

"So, you think Jensen will do the 'smart' thing and go with friends so nobody ridicules you guys."

"Yeah, I guess." 

"Does that bother you?"

"No, no. I don't care, I'm not fussed on going to prom anyway, although my parents will probably make me."

"Yeah. My dad wants to send my grandparents pictures of me in a tux as I refuse to go to homecoming."

"Why do our fucking schools have so many lame dances? I have cousins in England and they just have one prom in their last year of school and that's it; no winter formal, no valentine's ball, no homecoming." 

"Do you think you'd be bothered if Jensen went with another not date but kinda date next year?" Matt asked softly.

"I-I - no- maybe."

"Maybe?"

"I-It's not that I don't trust him, I do, but, yeah, I wouldn't feel great if we'd been dating for a year and he went out holding hands with some girl, even if it was just for a photo shoot." 

"That makes sense. Hey, do you think I'll have a girlfriend by our senior prom?"

"It's quite possible," Jared replied.

"That's comforting." Jared rolled his eyes. 

 

  Jared was half-asleep when Mr Padalecki arrived to pick him up from Matt's house that night. Matt had already fallen asleep on the couch, so Jared left as quietly as possible and followed Mr Cohen to the front door. "It was nice seeing you, Jared," Mr Cohen said. "Matt will see you on Monday." Jared nodded and plodded down the path in the front lawn, towards where Mr Padalecki was parked. Jared slid into the passenger's seat and gave his father a forced smile. 

"Is Jeff back yet?" he questioned. 

"No, not yet," Mr Padalecki replied. "He promised that he wasn't off to drink at some after party, but Mrs. Louis down the street thinks that he and LeAnne headed off together."

"Dun, dun, dun."

"No need for the theatrics," Mr Padalecki sighed. Jared shrugged. 

 

 Jared flopped onto his bed once he returned home. Mrs. Padalecki had fallen asleep on the couch, so Mr Padalecki had taken to listening to the radio in the kitchen and Meg had headed to bed. Jared had considered logging into Netflix on his laptop, but he decided that he was too tired, so he threw off his jeans and listened to music on his IPod. He closed his eyes as he listened to the guitar and sighed. He laid like that until there was a knock on his bedroom door. "Hullo?" he called.

"Hey, Jay," Mr Padalecki said, pushing the door open, "someone's at the door for you." Jared raised an eyebrow. He dropped his IPod onto the floor and rushed downstairs. He pulled open the front door and widened his eyes when he saw Jensen, still dressed in his suit, smirking at him. 

"Nice shorts," Jensen chuckled. Jared glanced down at his boxers and bit his lip. "Relax, it's fine."

"Y-yeah."

"How're you?"

"Um... tired but good, I guess. What about you? How was the prom?"

"I'm also a bit tired, but good, yeah. It was alright, y'know, I kinda just tailed Kim for most of the night or acted as Jeffrey's wingman but it wasn't bad."

"So, uh... why're you here?"

"I wanted to see you," Jensen shrugged. "I, uh... I kinda guessed you weren't too enthused by this so I thought I'd come see how you were doing."

"I'm fine, Jensen," Jared said. "I'm not some prick who refuses to let you hang around your friends." 

"I know, I know, but I'm sure watching your boyfriend go to prom with someone else can't be fun and-and I missed you, y'know; it would have been much more fun if you were there."

"Oh, thanks. I-I hope you did have fun, though, Jense."

"You're sweet. Um... do-do you want-"

"What are you doing here?" snapped a voice from behind Jensen in the darkness. Jared squinted his eyes and shook his head as he saw Jeff approach. He, too, was still dressed in his suit and he was frowning. 

"Just talking to Jared," Jensen shrugged. "I'll be going soon."

"Right."

"I'll text you later, Jay," Jensen sighed, before he nodded to Jeff and trailed back up the driveway. Jared narrowed his eyes.

"What's your problem?" he flared. 

"You know what my problem is, Jared," Jeff sighed. Jared rolled his eyes.

 

  Jared had his headphones back in when Jeff padded into his room after his shower. Jared nodded at him, but didn't say anything. "Look, JT, I know you're pissed at me, alright, but you need to understand I know these kids better than you do."

“Look, JT, I know you’re pissed at me, but believe me, I know these kids better than you do, alright?”

“You don’t know Jensen.”

“No, but I know Pellegrino and I know the kids that hang out with him.”

“Yes, he’s a bully and a dick and he hurt Matt but that doesn’t mean all of his friends are like that.”

“Pellegrino is so much more than a high school bully. He-he sold drugs in sophomore year, he stole shit, he beat up his neighbours, he keyed cars, he steals booze, and he sells cigarettes and booze to underage kids. He’s a mess of a human and he’s particular about who he hangs around with. His friends are just people he finds useful, people he can pay with drugs or alcohol to do shit for him so he doesn’t have to risk being arrested. If your boyfriend’s in his circle, he must have done something.”

"Jensen doesn't do drugs."

"Maybe not, maybe he just put notes in the lockers of kids that owed Pellegrino money, maybe he just stole some fireworks from Walmart, maybe he just beat up a kid, maybe he just helped key a car or spray paint a door, but he has to have done something to be trusted by these kids."

"Jensen's not- not like that."

"Isn't he? How does he get invited to all these senior parties? How have he and Jeffrey been getting pissed since their freshman year? How does he get expensive liquor at his own parties- I've seen the pictures, I'm not an idiot."

"Jensen said he knows Pellegrino because of baseball and that's the only reason he hangs out with him."

"Maybe they did meet at practice and Pellegrino thought he could be of use, I don't know, but the point is, he has to have done or know some shit to be one of Pellegrino's buddies."

"Maybe he just knows stuff, then."

"Maybe, but isn't being complacent just as bad? I mean, he just watched Pellegrino hurt you and Matt without doing anything."

"He said he'd be making Matt look weaker if he fought his battles for him."

"That's a bullshit excuse to let a kid get beaten up." 

"So, you really think Jensen's that bad?"

"I think he has to be."

 

  Jared didn't sleep well that night. He had images of Jensen in alleyways smoking and punching kids in his head. Jared groaned and tried to force himself to fall asleep, but all he could think about was Jensen laughing with Pellegrino; sitting with him at lunch, sitting with him in the bleachers, sitting in his car. Jared felt his stomach churn as he thought of Jensen helping Pellegrino beat up some drug addicted school kid. 

- - - - -

Jared was alone at lunch on Tuesday; Jake had practice and Matt was in detention. He ate his mashed potatoes quietly in the corner, while flicking through a comic book Jake had given him. He looked up as he heard Jensen's laugh and saw the boy wandering into the canteen with Jeffrey and Pellegrino. Jared shook his head and turned his attention back to his over-boiled string beans. 

 

 Of course, Jared couldn't go a full lunchtime without Jensen deciding to join him. Jensen slumped onto the chair opposite Jared as Jeffrey and Pellegrino left the canteen. "You didn't respond to any of my texts this weekend, what's up with that?" Jensen asked. Jared shrugged. "I invited you to our barbecue, you never responded," Jensen continued. "My father was hoping to meet you." Jared shrugged again. "Seriously, Jared, what's wrong? I-I want to help you, man, if I've done something, tell me, I want to make it better." 

"Can we take a walk?" Jared asked lowly. Jensen nodded.

"Yeah, sure." Jared pulled his rucksack onto his shoulder and followed Jensen out of the canteen.

 

  Jared sat on the grass beside the gate between the parking lot and the road outside. He wrung his hands together as Jensen sat beside him and smiled. "Is everything okay, Jared?" Jensen asked. "You seem worried."

"I-I spoke to my brother after you left on Friday," Jared said. "He- uh, he had a few things to say about Pellegrino."

"When doesn't he?"

"Have you ever helped him deal drugs?"

"What? Jay, what are you talking about?"

"Jeff said that the only people Pellegrino is friends with are people who are willing to do awful shit in return for alcohol or drugs, so what did you do?" Jared snarled. Jensen sighed.

"I don't know what to tell you, Jay," he said awkwardly. "I don't know most of the stupid shit he's done or says he has done. I-I've known the kid since I was a freshman on the junior varsity baseball team-"

"What does he have over you, Jensen?"

"He has a superiority complex, right? That's why he took your buddy saying his girlfriend was hot so seriously, because he was having problems with her and he didn't want the underclassman to think he was better than them. He and Rich enjoyed laughing at us. They'd invite us to parties, give us booze and dare us to do stupid things. They took joy in making us take a risk and be nervous and scared about being caught."

"So, if they made you feel awful, why keep hanging out with them?"

"Because I wanted to be cool, Jared. I wanted to fit in, to be popular."

"You are cool."

"No, I'm not, and that's fine, now, but two years ago I was dying to be just as popular as my brother, so I accepted the challenges and went to the parties and made a fool of myself."

"Does he still embarrass you?"

"No. Jeffrey and I got caught stealing once, we got into so much trouble and our parents were pissed, but because we didn't rat them out, Pellegrino and Rich actually started to respect us. It meant I could go to parties and feel like I had friends and I just ignored how he was doing it to a bunch of other kids. I'm sure the stupid dares they had us do benefited them in some way, even if it was just entertainment, but now they just sorta hang around Jeffrey and I because they know we're not going to narc."

"So, you didn't do drugs?"

"No drugs." 

"And you didn't break into houses?"

"No breaking and entry."

"But you stole stuff?"

"Yeah, I stole firecrackers and cards and food in return for beer. I was a stupid, cocky fourteen year old and it's not something I'm proud of."

"Yet you let him continue to be a dick."

"So? I don't control his life."

"You watched him beat me and Matt up. Even Jeffrey helped."

"He-he was already teasing me because he thought I had a thing for you and I didn't want him to say it in front of you in case you hated me, alright?"

"That's not a good enough excuse." 

"It's the only one I have."

"Ok."

"Look, I understand if Pellegrino said some shit to try to intimidate him and, along with stuff he's seen, it led him to think we were a gang or something, but I only drink in my house or at parties of people I know now and I don't do any of the shit he's involved in."

"What's he involved in?"

"I dunno, lots of shit, I try to stay out of it. Relax, he finishes school soon and we won't have to put up with him."

"Right."

"I was a stupid kid, Jay, it was nothing more. Please, I'll talk to your brother, just don't let this ruin things for us, okay? I know it's difficult to understand as you're such a good kid. You're nice and patient and sweet and I'm sometimes too cocky for my own good, so we won't see eye-to-eye all the time, but this isn't going to be an issue, okay?"

"Talk to Jeff," Jared said. Jensen nodded. 

 

  Jared was helping Jeff wash his car after school when Jensen arrived. He was still in his baseball uniform and he had apparently ran the distance, as he was red in the face, sweaty and panting. Jared raised an eyebrow at him. "Hey," Jensen said, wiping his brow with the back of his hand.

"Get lost," growled Jeff.

"I need to talk to you."

"Piss off."

"Please?"

"I'm going to go and get a snack," Jared said awkwardly. Jensen nodded at him. Jared nodded back and padded into the house. He opened the fridge and took out a strawberry yogurt. 

"How's the car looking?" Mr Padalecki asked, striding into the room. 

"Uh... we're almost done." 

"Good. Is Jeff still outside?"

"Uh... yeah."

"Is he still working."

"He's- uh... he's talking to Jensen."

"Your Jensen?"

"I guess." 

"Are they fighting again?"

"I hope not," Jared replied. Mr Padalecki marched out of the kitchen and to the front door he pulled it open as Jared followed him and peered over his shoulder to see Jeff right up to Jensen, glowering down at him. Jensen continued to babble softly, until Jeff pushed him. 

"Why should I care?" he growled.

"Why do you care about this shit in the first place?" Jensen asked.

"Jeff!" Mr Padalecki called. "JEFF! Leave the boy alone!" Jeff glanced over his shoulder and rolled his eyes at Mr Padalecki. 

"Come on, you," he said to Jensen. Uncomfortably, Jensen followed Jeff into the house. Jared trailed after them, upstairs and into his room. 

"I don't understand why this bugs you," Jensen was saying, "I'm not involved and Jared's not involved."

"You know that this prick is doing this shit and you're still hanging out with him and you hanging out with Jared puts him in danger."

"No, it doesn't. I'm not around him if I can help it and Jared never is."

"Right."

"I mean it, in a month or so, he's gone and that's that." 

"Right."

"I mean it."

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"I can't say you're wrong when we're talking about the future, but if it turns out you're lying, I'll kill you. Now, if you'd excuse me, I have a car to wash." 

"Bye then."

"What did you say to him?" Jared asked as Jeff left. 

"I told him that I understood why he hared Pellegrino, I mean, the guy bullied his girlfriend for all of their sophomore year, but just because I hung around with him didn't mean I was like him or that I agreed with that he was doing. I told him about why I let him fight Matt and that I didn't do all those stupid dares any more."

"Why didn't he like that?"

"I-I also told him that I knew Pellegrino was a bad guy and that, yes, he stole stuff and broke into houses to steal stuff. He said I was an accessory and that if I didn't phone the police, I was just as involved as Rich was. I told him that would end awfully for me and that just because I knew it was going on didn't mean I wanted to be involved. He got pissed."

"Yeah, he does that."

"It's fine," Jensen shrugged. "I get it, I mean, if I heard my sister was dating some older guy who's friends were criminals, I'd have issues too, but the guy needs to listen more."

"I guess."

"So, since I have to wait until May to prove I'm not shit, I'd better go," Jensen said, "but, uh... my dad's having another barbecue this weekend if you'd like to come."

"Sure."

"Cool." Jared nodded and watched as Jensen left his room. He flopped onto his bed and pulled his rucksack out from under his bed. 

Chapter Text

Mr Ackles had an expertise with a barbecue that Jared hadn't experienced before. Jared wore a blue, Hawaiian shirt that he had borrowed from Jeff to Jensen's house and laughed when he saw that Jensen's shirt was dotted with cartoon pineapples. Jensen smiled at him and led him around the side of the house to his garden. Jeffrey and Ty were sat on the hammock, and Alona was sat on the chair beside it, so Jared joined Jensen's sister and uncle at the garden table. He watched Mr Ackles flip his burgers and butter cobs of corn, while Jensen poured him a glass of lemonade from a jug. "Mac made this, didn't you?" Jensen said. His sister nodded. 

"Mom helped," she said, "but not much because she was busy." 

"Yeah, yeah she was," sighed Jensen. "Uh... food will be ready soon. Can I get you anything else?"

"I'm fine," Jared shrugged. Jensen nodded and went back to talking to Jeffrey and Ty. Jared felt a little jealous, as he had been under the impression that Jensen had invited solely him, and not other friends, but he didn't say anything.

"We saw you in that play," Mac told him. Jared nodded. "You were good, better than Jay."

"I wouldn't say that," muttered Jared awkwardly. Mac shrugged. 

"Do you play baseball, too?"

"Uh... no, I don't."

"Jensen does."

"I know."

"He's good."

"Is he?" I've never seen him play."

"He's good. My other brother, Josh, is better, but he's good." 

 

 Jared ate three of the burgers Mr Ackles had cooked. He also had some of the salad Mrs. Ackles had put on the table and a few slices of chicken. He didn't manage to try any corn because Ty wolfed them down before anyone else could get to them. "Thanks, buddy," groaned Jensen. "I wanted one of those."

"Oh, just eat your hot dog and shut up," Ty snapped. Jensen rolled his eyes.

"We need to stop inviting you," Mac said. "You eat all of the good stuff."

"Maybe you should just make more food," shrugged Ty.

"How much money do you think we have, Ty?" chuckled Mr Ackles, clearing the empty plates from the table.

"Disallow Jeffrey, then, he's the one who burps at the table." 

"You're the problem, Olsson, not me." 

"No one's a problem," Mr Ackles said. "Relax." Jared grinned as he saw Jensen shuffle out of the house with the trifle for dessert. 

"Are you staying to watch the game, Jared?" Jensen asked. "Alona and Ty are."

"No, sorry," Jared replied, "my dad expects me to watch it with him and my brother."

"Next time, then?" Mr Ackles said, smiling. Jared nodded.

- - - - -

Jared next went to Jensen's house on Friday after school. He had gone home to change first, but he still managed to get there before Jensen returned from baseball practice, so he sat on Jensen's couch with Mr Ackles to wait for him. "Did he tell you want to to come over?" Mr Ackles asked him. 

"No," Jared replied. "He just told me that to come over as soon as I could."

"Alright," sighed Mr Ackles. "I'm going to get a coffee, do you want coffee?"

"Sure." 

 

  Jensen returned, sweaty and grumpy, when Jared was half-way through his second coffee. He took one look at Mr Ackles and Jared on the couch, their eyes on the TV, and snorted. "Hey," he said. Jared smiled at him. 

"Shower before anything else," Mr Ackles snapped, eyeing Jensen's dirty baseball uniform. 

"Alright, alright," groaned Jensen. "I'll be back soon, Jay." Jared nodded and sipped his coffee. 

"I don't know why that boy never uses the showers in school," tutted Mr Padalecki. "He always comes home stinking."

"Whenever I use the school showers after gym, I always get people throwing things at me. It's not fun."

"You should report that." 

"To who? The coach won't do anything about it cos he doesn't want to stop his boys playing baseball and anyone else will tell me to go to the coach first." 

"That sounds fair." 

 

  Once Jensen had cleaned up, he led Jared up to his room. His hair was still damp and he hadn't put gel in it yet, so Jared ran enjoyed running his hands through it as Jensen searched for something under the bed. "I'm not a cat," Jensen snapped, although there was no venom behind his words.  Jared rolled his eyes and patted Jensen's head, before he leant back against the bed. 

"JENSEN," Mr Ackles called from the hallway below. "I'm off to pick up your sister; we'll be back soon!"

"ALRIGHT!" Jensen shouted in response, before sitting beside Jared and opening his Spanish textbook. Jared scooted closer to him and dropped his forehead to rest on Jensen's shoulder. Jensen smiled at him and kissed his head, before turning his attention back to his book. "This won't take long," he told Jared softly. "I just have to read a few pages." Jared nodded.

 

 Jared laid on the bed, his head on Jensen's chest for a few minutes. Jensen ran a hand through his hair and kissed the top of his head, smirking. Jared felt his cheeks flush red and he began to slide down the bed until he rested his head on Jensen's stomach. "I wanna blow you," Jared murmured. Jensen shook his head.

"No you don't."

"Yeah, I do. Let me blow you."

"No, Jay, you don't want that. Do you want me to get nachos and salsa from the kitchen? We could have a picnic."

"Why don't you think I wanna blow you?"

"Why do you think you want to?"

"I want to make you feel good."

"Hanging out is enough," Jensen said softly.

"Don't you trust me to touch you?"

"Don't do that?"

"Please?"

"Fine, but, uh... don't force yourself to try to deep throat or swallow or hold your breath or anything stupid like that." 

 

  Jared kissed Jensen's stomach as the older boy finished. Jensen picked up an old t-shirt from the floor and wiped his leg, before throwing the t-shirt in the hamper and running his hands across Jared's shoulders. "You are so perfect," he whispered. Jared smiled into his hip. "My Jared."

"You're cute," Jared muttered. Jensen chuckled.

"Hey, come up here." Jared nodded and scooted up the bed to sit beside Jensen, who ran his hand down Jared's back. "Let me make you feel good, Jay," Jensen whispered huskily. Jared nodded. Jensen rubbed his hand over Jared's crotch and Jared moaned into his shoulder. 

 

 Jared couldn't pay much attention to what Jensen was doing as his attention was on Jensen's hand, which was massaging his dick. When Jensen let go, Jared opened his eyes to find Jensen sat beside him, naked from the waist down and smiling at him. "Do you trust me?" Jensen asked. Jared nodded. "Do-do you want to do this?"

"Y-Yeah," Jared replied.

"O-Okay." Jensen shifted closer to Jared and kissed him.

 

  Jared wasn't sure what to expect, but as Jensen lowered himself down onto him, he let out a groan of ecstasy. Jared had more than appreciated the blow jobs, but this was something else. Jensen moved very slowly, taking his time so they could both adjust, before carefully turning to he was facing Jared. "Want me-me to move or will you?"

"I don't want to hurt you," Jared whispered.

"It's okay, you won't," Jensen said sweetly. Slowly, he lifted his hips up and down so he was pushing down onto Jared's dick, smirking as Jared groaned. Jensen enveloped Jared's mouth in a passionate kiss as Jared began to thrust, his dick hitting everywhere inside Jensen at once. Jensen sucked hard on Jared's tongue as Jared increased the velocity of his thrusts. Jensen's hands gripped Jared's shirt tightly as he writhed his body against him. Jared pulled away from the kiss and pecked Jensen's cheek as Jensen slid back down so his hips met Jared's. 

"I-I'm gonna-gonna finish," Jared huffed. Jensen groaned. He pecked Jared's lips before climbing off him and laying on the bed beside him. Jensen resumed jerking Jared off quickly with his fist, until Jared spurted over him. Jared felt his body wither against the bed and tried to reach for Jensen, but Jensen finished himself quickly, kissed Jared's shoulder, and used another sweaty t-shirt from the floor to clean them up.

"I'm gonna hit the shower before my father gets back," Jensen said. Jared nodded.

"You should also do some laundry," he told him, smirking. Jensen rolled his eyes.

"Care to join me?"

"I should probably head home."

"No, stay. We can have those nachos once we're clean."

"Won't your parents be concerned if my hair's wet from the shower?"

"If I give you one of my shirts, we can say we were rough-housing in the garden and we got too muddy," Jensen shrugged.

"You're devious." 

"You're supposed to say 'wow, Jensen, you're a genius' not insult me."

"It was more of an observation than an insult."

"Are you coming or not?" 

 

  Jared and Jensen were on the couch in the living room, dipping nachos into the slightly warm salsa when Mr Ackles and Jensen's sister returned home.  "Did you two spray each other with the hose or something?" Mr Ackles chuckled. Jensen shook his head.

"I, uh... I should be going," Jared told Jensen quietly. "My Mom needs me."

"Alright, I'll see you tomorrow." 

"Yeah."

- - - - -

Jared texted Jensen the following morning when he got up to find out if he wanted to go to the park that afternoon. Jared threw on a hoodie and stuffed his phone into the pocket, before he padded downstairs for breakfast. Jeff was already in the kitchen, dressed and gulping down coffee. Mrs. Padalecki was beside him, plating up eggs on toast. "Morning," Jared said, yawning. 

"Hey, JT," Jeff said. 

"Did you sleep well, love?" Mrs. Padalecki asked.

"Yeah," Jared shrugged. 

"Have you heard from anyone else about that quiz yesterday?"

"Yeah, Jake doesn't think it was fair either." 

"Pop quizzes suck, but it'll be fine," Jeff said. 

 

  When Jensen didn't text Jared back by lunchtime, Jared texted him again. He just sent a message saying that he wanted to hang out soon, even if he couldn't today, but Jensen didn't respond. This time, Jared had to rule out the idea that Jensen was still asleep as he knew his parents refused to let him sleep past midday, but he supposed maybe Jensen couldn't access his phone. He found it unlikely, as Jensen normally kept his phone in his pocket, but there was a chance that Jensen was in the living room and left his phone in his room, or that he was swimming or somewhere without service. Jared tried not to dwell on it too much and took a comic book out of his dresser and began to flick through the pages. 

 

 Jared distracted himself by helping his mother prepare the chicken for lunch and watching an old James Bond movie on the TV with his father while his brother was at work. Jared deliberately left his phone on his bed, so three hours or so later, when Jared returned to his room, he was hoping for a message from Jensen, but he received nothing. 

- - - - -

 Jared saw Jensen at lunch time on Monday. He was sat alone at a table, his eyes on one of two geography textbooks that he had out. Jared left Matt in the queue for lunch and plodded over to Jensen. "How come you're alone?" he asked.

"Pellegrino, Jeffrey and Ruthie went off campus for lunch," Jensen shrugged, "and Ty is somewhere with Alona, so I'm here."

"Why aren't you working in the library."

"These fucking freshman girls keep talking about my ass. It's concerning." 

"Yeah." 

"Look, Jay, I hate to be rude, but I need to concentrate," Jensen said coldly. "Go eat your lunch." Jared stared at him. He didn't move as Jensen turned his attention back to his books. 

"Jensen, did-did I do something wrong? Did-did I hurt you?"

"It doesn't matter, Jay."

"I'm sorry," Jared muttered awkwardly, before he padded back to the queue, where Matt was waiting for him.

"What's wrong?"

"I-I think- I think I hurt him," Jared murmured.

"How?"

"It's complicated."

"Are you okay?"

"I think he hates me," Jared muttered. "And there's nothing I can do about it. He won't let me talk to him. He won't answer my texts or anything." 

"I'm sure you'll figure it out," Matt shrugged. 

- - - - -

 Jared next saw Jensen at Ruth's house on Friday night. She had thrown what she had told Jared to be a 'small get-together', that turned out to be a quite a large gathering, which Jared and Matt had been practically forced to attend. He saw Jensen with Ty in the kitchen, pouring what looked like tequila into plastic red cups. Matt jerked his head in Jensen's direction, but Jared purposefully didn't glance at the older boy and marched through the kitchen to the garden. A few kids were straying each other with the hose, so Jared found himself a spot on the wooden bench amongst the roses, watching  Jeffrey shaking the hose over his head. "Have you tried talking to him again?" Matt asked. 

"Huh?"

"Have you spoken to Jensen again?"

"No. I texted him again on Wednesday, but he didn't respond." 

"I saw him staring at us in there," Matt murmured softly. "You should try speaking to him."

"He's made it clear he doesn't want to talk to me," sighed Jared, "so I'll have to wait for him to speak to me." 

"Are we just going to ignore him all night?"

"I guess."

 

  Jared managed to avoid Jensen for most of the night. He and Matt were about to head out when Matt took a detour to Ruth's bathroom. Jared waited in the hallway for him, his back against the wall in hopes that he won't obstruct the walkway, and kept his eyes downward. He flinched when someone tapped his shoulder. "You're a weird guy, Jay," Jensen told him quietly. "You spend days texting me, but now you're avoiding me."

"If you want to talk to me, you could've done it yourself."

"And what do you suppose I say?"

"Whatever you want."

"Helpful. Can we talk outside? It's pretty loud in here."

"Uh... sorry, I don't have time," Jared said, "I need to meet Matt's dad at the park in literally five minutes." 

"It won't take long, honest."

"I can't," sighed Jared.

"Tell Matt I can take you home instead."

"No thanks."

"You-you don't trust me?"

"You've practically ghosted me all week and now you're telling me to abandon my friend, not a good look."

"Alright, I get it, but I needed some time to think."

"You know what, fuck you, Ackles. I can't put my life on pause and wait for you to analyse everything we do. It effects me too."

"I know. I'm sorry. Please." Jensen's voice sounded weak and pleading, but Jared shook his head as Matt emerged.

"I know you've been drinking, Ackles, and I need to go. I'll text you tomorrow, if you'd like."

"Nah, I'll be too hungover. I'll speak to you Sunday, I guess."

"Alright," Jared said shortly, before he followed Matt out of Ruth's door and up the street, towards the small children's park. 

"What was that about?" Matt asked. 

"I don't really know, but I don't need to talk to him just because he's drunk and lonely."

"Good for you," Matt said, slapping his back, before he waved to the car approaching. 

- - - - -

True to his word, Jensen called Jared on Sunday morning. Jared had still been asleep and groaned as his ringer sounded. "Turn tha' off," slurred Jeff sleepily from his bed. Jared rolled his eyes and pressed the phone to his ear. He shuffled out of the room as he heard Jensen's greeting and strode downstairs and out to the driveway. 

"Hullo," Jared said. "How're you? How's your head?"

"It's fine now; hurt like a son of a bitch yesterday, though." 

"How did your parents react?"

"I thought my dad was gonna whoop my ass for sure, man," Jensen chuckled, "but, when they noticed I was groggy, I just told them it was hay fever and they bought it. It seems, fortunately for me, that my brother's gotten into a shit ton of trouble for plagiarism in college and he might fail his entire psychology unit, so my parents were more focused on that." 

"Lucky you," Jared said dryly. 

"Yeah. Anyway, how're you?"

"Alright." Jared glanced over his shoulder to see his mother staring at him in the doorway. "Can I talk to you at school tomorrow?"

"Not really."

"Huh?"

"Um... about that, I'm currently suspended."

"WHAT?" Jared flared.

"Yeah. They did this search in the locker rooms cos someone tipped off the coach that some guys were on steroids or something. Only one guy was done for it, but the coach found cigarettes in my locker. They weren't mine so I have no clue how they got there, but I'm suspended all week."

"Shit. How did your parents react to that?"

"Fortunately, they know me well enough to know I don't smoke, so my dad's giving the school hell, but it doesn't seem that their going to go back on their decision. However, since they need me in the baseball game next week, I'm only out for five days, not ten."

"Can't you appeal or something?"

"Apparently not, since it's a suspension not expulsion. My mom is not amused."

"I don't blame her."

"Who are you talking to, JT?" Mrs. Padalecki asked. 

"Not now," Jared hissed, waving a hand dismissively at her. Mrs. Padalecki rolled her eyes and shuffled back into the house.

"Huh?" Jensen puzzled.

"Sorry, my Mom has a chronic intolerance for minding her own business." 

"Our moms share that in common, it seems," Jensen laughed. "Hey, I'm gonna go get my breakfast. Can I come and pick you up later so we can talk?"

"Uh... I guess so."

"Okay, see you then." Jensen hung up the phone, so Jared trailed back inside.

 

  Jared rushed upstairs and pulled on a pair of sweats, before he marched into the kitchen. He poured himself some coffee as Mrs. Padalecki turned the bacon. 

"So, are you going to tell me who was on the phone?" she asked.

"Just Jensen," Jared shrugged. 

"Why'd you have to go outside to speak to him?"

"Jeff was complaining in our room and I thought that I might wake Meg if I spoke in the hallway."

"So you couldn't come down here with me and your father?"

"No, you're incredibly nosy people and I wanted to talk to Jensen in peace."

"Aren't you polite?"

"Don't blame me, you raised me," Jared chuckled. Mrs. Padalecki batted his hand with her spatula and shook her head. Jared chuckled. 

 

  Jared had just come out of the shower and was drying his hair when there was a knock on the door. "Occupied," he called.

"Jensen's outside," his mother told him. "Do you want me to invite him in?"

"I don't mind," Jared replied. "It won't take me long to dress." 

"Alright." Jared heard his mother walk away as he pulled his blue t-shirt over his head as he let his towel drop to the floor so he could grab his underwear from where he had left it on the radiator. 

 

  Jensen was sat on the couch when Jared ventured downstairs. He nodded at the older boy and smiled at his father, before following Jensen towards his car. "Don't be out too late," Mrs. Padalecki called after them.

"We won't," Jared told. "Relax." Jensen chuckled as he opened Jared's door for him. Jared awkwardly slid into the passenger's seat and rubbed the back of his neck. "So, where are we going?" Jared asked.

"Nowhere in particular," Jensen shrugged. "I thought we could drive around and talk a bit, maybe get some lunch." 

"What do you want to talk about?" 

"Why did you think that you'd hurt me?"

"You stopped talking to me after- y'know, after we did stuff so I thought maybe I'd been too rough or something."

"No, you'd been great."

"Thank you," Jared murmured, blushing. "You-you were great too."

"Was that your first time?"

"Y-Yeah."

"And you're not even seventeen yet, fuck. I tried to convince myself that your willingness meant you'd done it before, but no."

"Uh... sorry?"

"No, no, don't apologise. Don't."

"Jensen, what's your problem, man. You're generally the one initiating anything physical that we do, and then you freak out on me." 

"I know that you know that I've been with other people," Jensen muttered. Jared nodded. "You practically saw me dry-humping a girl in Jeffrey's kitchen for Pete's sake."

"So? You're legal, you can do what you want."

"I know, Jay, I know, but that's not the point."

"What is the point then, Jensen, cos this is really bugging me. If you really cared that I'm not seventeen yet, you wouldn't have let me blow you in the first place and if the age difference is the issue, you wouldn't have let me talk you out of ending this, so what's wrong."

"I-I've been in shitty relationships before, Jared," Jensen sighed. "When I was like, fifteen, I dated this cheerleader and she only liked me because I was only kid under junior year on the varsity baseball team. She was seventeen or eighteen and she-we did a bunch of sexual stuff. We didn't actually fuck or anything and it's not that I wasn't into it, but it's just I felt like we were doing stuff too much and she got annoyed whenever I didn't want to go down on her and she'd call me gay whenever I said I didn't want her to blow me. I-It wasn't a healthy relationship whatsoever and-and I'd hate for you to be in that position with me. Since that stupid party at Rich's, there's only been like, twice when we've properly hung out and we didn't do shit, and once was when you were hanging out with my sister."

"Jensen, if we were doing it too much, I'd tell you."

"Would you? I know you and your friend are kinda intimidated by my buddies and, y'know, I'd hate you to feel like you had to do stuff or else you'd get hurt."

"Jensen, I do that stuff with you because I trust you. If I had an issue, I'd tell you, and if I didn't feel like I could tell you in person, I'd either text you or ask Ruth to talk to you." 

"Yeah, yeah, I guess."

"Do-do you regret doing it?"

"Honestly, a little, yeah. You made me feel great and I hope I made you feel just as good, but, yeah, I think we rushed into it."

"Oh."

"But, I don't want you to regret it," Jensen said quickly. "I'm going to give you so many better times than that, but I don't want you to regret your first time. Not that it matters, really, virginity's a social construct and all that; I was drunk when I lost it and I don't care."

"Have you ever hooked up with a girl?"

"I've never just hooked up, y'know, I've dated the person, but yeah. I've slept with more girls than guys. Not than I'm a slut or anything, not that there's anything wrong with liking sex, but yeah. Why?"

"Just curious," Jared shrugged. "Does it bother you that I don't really like your friends, apart from maybe Jeffrey?"

"That's cool. I'm sure if you got to know some of them, like Ty or Brianna or Kim, you'd like them, but I don't know Matt or the kid with the trumpet very well either, so it's not that important." 

"W-would it bother you if I stopped going to those parties and stuff? It's just, I don't have much fun at them and Ruth seems content with bringing Matt instead of me."

"I mean, I liked hanging out with you at them, but I know it's not your scene, so I don't mind. We can find other ways to hang out."

"Yeah, yeah."

"You can come over after school at some point, if you want. I'm banned from practice all week."

"What are you going to do now you're suspended?"

"I dunno. I've been told someone is going to email me homework and shit, so I'll have to find my school log-in shit from somewhere, but I suppose I'll just live in my pyjamas or something. My parents are apparently going to try and speak to the superintendent to get it off my personal record at least, so at least they're not pissed at me." 

"That's something, I guess." 

- - - - -

  Mr Ackles hosted another barbecue on Saturday afternoon to take advantage of the nice weather. Jared sat on the hammock between Jensen and Alona as they watched Jeffrey and Ty run around the garden, throwing a football back and for. "Ackles, come on," Jeffrey called. "Come and have fun." 

"I'm tired, man," Jensen replied. "I went to bed late last night to finish calc homework." 

"Be a man, Ackles," chuckled Ty.

"You're apes, you know that, right?" groaned Alona. Ty scoffed. 

"Jared'll play, right, Jay?" Jeffrey asked.

"I will if Jensen does." 

"Hey," Jensen said, slapping Jared's shoulder. Jared chuckled.

 

  Eventually, Jared and Jensen joined in the football match and they ended up rolling around on the floor. Jared was on a team with Ty and Jeffrey was constantly tackling him to the ground. "Boys, stop it," Mrs. Ackles called. "Food's nearly done." 

"We're tied," huffed Ty. "Just wait one second." 

"Come on, Ty, you're filthy enough," snapped Mr Ackles. Ty groaned and threw the ball at Jensen's head, before he padded to the garden table. Alona followed him and sat beside Jensen's sister as Jared and Jeffrey untangled themselves and stood up. 

"Why'd you have to involve me?" Jensen groaned, staring at his muddy shirt. Jared shrugged. Jensen ruffled his hair and smirked. "You're filthy, man."

"Yep."

"You're surprisingly good, though. Nothing on me, obviously, but you're good."

"Right." 

 

  Ty and Alona left once the food had been eaten. Ty was still covered in mud and Mrs. Ackles thought that he would look like he'd been mugged on his way home. "You boys need to shower," she told Jensen, Jeffrey and Jared once they had finished eating. 

"Just to put on muddy clothes again?" scoffed Jeffrey. "What's the point? I'll shower at home."

"I'm sure Jensen will let you and Jared borrow some of his clothes," Mr Ackles said.

"Sure," Jensen shrugged. "I'm going to the upstairs bathroom."

"Alright, can I go up to get some clothes first?" Jeffrey asked.

"Sure." 

 

  Jared waited outside for Jensen to shower. After twenty minutes, Mr Ackles hurried him to his room to change and ushered Jared into the upstairs bathroom. "Jensen's going to bring you some clothes once he's dressed," he told him, "so listen out for a knock on the door and leave it unlocked." Jared agreed and shed his clothes before turning on the hot water. Jared decided early on that he liked Jensen's shower; the water pressure felt nice and, unlike Jared's shower where he had a blue curtain that always stuck to his leg, Jensen's shower had a swinging, plastic door. He watched water drip down it as he tried to wash the dirt out of his hair. While outside, Jared hadn't noticed the mud, but now he was trying to get clean, he was conscious of all the mud and dirt on his body. 

 

  Jared had just clambered out of the shower and was wrapping a towel around his waist when there was a knock on the door. Jared gripped the towel and exhaled. "Uh... I just got out, so could you leave the clothes outside?" he called. Jared ran a hand through his hair, his eyes on the misty mirror, as the door opened. He widened his eyes as Jensen approached him. "I asked you to wait outside, didn't you hear me?" Jared said softly. Jensen chuckled and pushed Jared against the wall to kiss him. Jensen sucked on his tongue greedily and kept Jared's arms pinned to the wall, causing his towel to fall to the ground. 

"You're so hot," Jensen murmured, kissing along Jared's neck.

"Are you high or something?"

"No," Jensen snorted. 

"S-stop," Jared rasped. "Someone might catch us."

"Mom's gone driven Jeffrey home and Dad and Mac are outside, so we're fine, relax." 

"I don't believe you."

"That hurts," Jensen murmured. He helped Jared tie his towel around his waist again and forced a towel over his neck. "C'mon," he said. "Let's go." Jared left his dirty clothes in the bathroom and followed Jensen upstairs to his attic room. Jensen forced him onto the bed and threw off his own shorts. Apparently, he had been commando, as his dick shot up and he kissed Jared's cheek before pulling away his towel. 

"Calm down," Jared said. 

"Not now. Need you." 

"You gonna blow me?" 

"Not now." Jensen massaged Jared's dick and dived onto the floor. He took a box of condoms out from the dresser beside his bed and offered one to Jared. "Can you do this, or shall I?" he asked. Jared shrugged. Jensen ripped the packet open with his teeth and rolled the condom onto Jared's cock. Jared groaned as Jensen jerked him for a few moments, before he turned around. "Do you want to do this?" Jensen asked him. Jared nodded slowly. Jensen kissed him. He was slower this time, filling Jared with emotion instead of lust, and massaged the back of Jared's neck as he lowered himself onto Jared's cock.

"Aren't you supposed to like... prep first?" Jared asked.

"Did it in the shower," Jensen groaned. "Aw, you're so hot."

"You know you're like a walking wet dream, right?"

"You're sweet."

 

  Jared was slightly embarrassed by how early he was about to finish, but Jensen was so vocal and eager that he didn't mind too much. Jensen took Jared's mouth as Jared helped jerk him off. Jared bit his lip as Jensen spurted over the t-shirt he had given Jared. He tightened around Jared's dick and Jared moaned into the kiss as he finished. 

 

 Jensen moved almost immediately. He tugged the condom off Jared and threw it into the bin in the corner. He helped Jared out of the stained t-shirt, threw it into the hamper, and handed him a yellow jumper. He also handed Jared a pair of basketball shorts, before pulling on his own pair. "Is your mother not concerned by the amount of t-shirts you need to wash?" Jared murmured as Jensen enveloped him in his arms on the bed. Jensen chuckled and kissed Jared's head. 

"I just blame sweat," Jensen shrugged.

"How're you gonna get rid of the condom?"

"Hide it in kitchen roll or something, no, stop worrying and snuggle." Jared chuckled and buried his head into Jensen's chest as the older boy rubbed his back. 

"I love you," Jared whispered, before he realised that he had said it. He hoped he had said it quiet enough for Jensen not to hear him, but clearly the older boy did as he gripped him tighter and kissed the top of his head. 

"I love you, too, Jay," Jensen muttered. Jared looked up and kissed him, his hands exploring Jensen's abs under his shirt as Jensen ran a hand through his hair. When Jared pulled away, he kissed Jensen's neck. "Hey, Jay," Jensen murmured, "so, I know you're not massively into school sports, but we've got this away game on Friday and I was hoping you'd come and watch."

"Uh... why? Don't you hang out with the team after games?"

"Yeah, but it-it would be nice to see you there," Jensen shrugged, "and-and y'know, I was hoping you'd wear my home jersey."

"What?"

"It-it's a thing, alright. Players have their- the person their in a relationship with wear the number at away games. You don't have to, I'm sure my jersey is sweaty and gross, but, y'know, if you want to-"

"Sure," Jared said.

"Really?"

"If it's important to you, sure, but I'm bringing Matt."

"Okay, cool, I'll give you the jersey in school cos we're taking a bus to the stadium before the game."

"You'll have to give me the address, though."

"Sure thing."

"And, next semester, my mother and Jake are forcing me to join the marching band because I can play the tenor horn, so you have to come to at least one concert."

"Deal," Jensen said, taking Jared's hand in his. "This is nice," he murmured softly into Jared's shoulder. Jared couldn't agree more, but he didn't tell Jensen this, as soon the older boy was asleep, a smile still on his face.