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You Be the Prom Queen, I'll Be the Malcontent

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"Oh, man, Jared, get a load of that one," says Chad, in a voice that is not nearly low enough to be polite or, well, appropriate. Not that Jared is sure Chad knows what either of those words means in the first place.

"Indoor voice, Chad," he says, following where Chad is pointing. There's a pretty girl wearing a short skirt and high heels, and her legs do look great. Jared can appreciate that from an aesthetic standpoint, even if he doesn't think there's any need to be so vocal about it.

"We're outdoors, dumbass," Chad says, as if this is a valid argument.

"You're being gross. And impolite."

"If I went outside looking like that, I'd want to know guys appreciated my efforts to look like a hot ass. Not that her ass needs much work to make it hot, damn."

Not everyone on Jared's current construction crew is like this. It's mostly just Chad, who seems to have decided that every stereotype about construction workers heckling hot women is not only true, but a lofty goal to strive for. Jared mostly wants to beat him to death with his hard hat when he gets like this. Which is, admittedly, pretty much all the time. But the rest of the time, he's fun. Jared likes him. He just doesn't necessarily think anyone else should.

"If you went out looking like that, I would definitely appreciate your efforts," he says dryly, which is probably better than homicide. "You've got legs that just don't quit."

"Whatever, you'd totally hit this. I am a dreamboat. I make losers like you who can't get laid go totally homo. But I'm way too hot for you to have a chance with me anyway. I'm a heart breaker."

Jared hasn't come out yet, mostly because Chad's flippant comments about how Jared wants him are among the least offensive commentary he's heard on the site about homosexuals. Mitchell, for example, went on a rant about how the gays were shoving their lives in his face, never happy to just stay home, had to show their depravity off to good, god-fearing people.

So, yeah, Jared hasn't told his coworkers about his sexuality yet. It's a liberal city, but apparently construction work isn't the place to go for acceptance. At least, this particular site isn't. But he hasn't had much luck finding anything else that pays as well for his time commitment.

"You're right, Chad," Jared says, deadpan. "I'm overcome with lust. Will you get to work already?"

"I swear, Padalecki, your dick must have shriveled and died from disuse," says Chad, and a passing guy raises his eyebrows.

Jared turns beet red. Mostly because the guy--he's seen the guy a few times. Noticed him the way you notice people who are--well, your type. He's young-ish, probably in his early twenties, a few years older than Jared, with, for lack of a better term, a really pretty face.

There is just no way to correct your friend about how, yes, you do have a dick, and it works fine, and it's not at all shriveled, in case anyone in the area is interested in dick. At least, not a way that doesn't involve you looking like a crazy person, and your friend mocking you, and the very pretty guy thinking you have some issues. And it's been a while since Jared's been the kind of guy who can talk about his dick and its preferences without turning bright red anyway.

"What did I say about work?" he asks instead, too loudly. "I swear to God, Chad, Imma duct-tape your mouth shut one of these days."

Pretty guy just keeps moving, and Jared sighs inwardly. The first sign he's ever had that the guy's noticed him, and Chad is telling him that his dick doesn't work. Not that there's anything he could have overheard that would magically make Jared romantically competent.

"My dick is great," Jared mutters, once Chad's not paying attention anymore.

No one hears him, but he feels very slightly better.

"Hey," says Misha, barely looking up from his video game when Jared comes in. "We need to do rent."

Jared groans. "Again? We just did rent."

"It's a monthly kind of thing," says Misha, turning his katamari with his whole body. Misha likes to really get into his video games. "I've got mine, you can leave yours on the table."

"Today?" asks Jared, feeling a little ill.

Misha finally pauses, looking over at Jared with concern. Most of the time, Misha is off in his own little world, doing whatever weird Misha things he does. But sometimes, he rejoins reality to be a decent human being. "Are you short?" he asks, tilting his head.

"Not if they don't cash it right away," Jared says, making a face. He rubs his forehead. One of his night classes is on Tuesday, and he always comes home exhausted and cranky. "They usually don't, right? I had to pay for transfer applications, I'm running a little low on funds."

"I can cover you," says Misha. "You can pay me after your next pay check, I've got enough in savings to cover it."

Misha is a grad student at Northeastern, getting his PhD in sociology. He's not exactly well off, but between loans and a variety of shady part time jobs, to say nothing of parental support, he's got a lot more disposable income than Jared does.

"You sure?" Jared asks. "I'll pay you back as soon as I can."

"I know you will," says Misha, sounding a little amused. "I know you're good for it." He scoots over on the couch, making room for Jared to flop down. "Long day, honey?" he asks, with a kissy face.

Jared flips him off absently. Misha knows he's gay and doesn't care; he just enjoys pretending they're married. It honestly makes Jared feel a lot better. "I hate straight boys. Your people suck."

"Please tell me you didn't hit on a homophobe," says Misha. "I wouldn't want you to finally start being social only to be brutally turned down."

"No, it's just Chad."

"Oh, Chad," says Misha, nodding. Jared has bitched enough about Chad that Misha understands their unique relationship--Jared likes the guy, and thinks he's fun, but also wants to kill him and throw his body in the river. "What's young squinty done this time?"

"Just being your stereotypical construction worker. Someday he's going to wolf whistle at the wrong girl and get his ass kicked, and I'm not going to stop it."

"As you shouldn't."

"And he made fun of me about not getting laid in front of a cute guy," Jared admits, which sounded much more legitimate in his head.

"And then did you get your period in the middle of gym class?"

"Fuck you."

Misha ruffles his hair. "Do you know this cute guy?"

"No," Jared says miserably. "I know no cute guys. Chad's right, my dick is going to stop functioning."

"God, you're mopey."

"Sorry," says Jared. "I just--I used to be so good with people. Back in high school, I could just--go up and talk to people I didn't know, make friends. And then--I stopped."

Misha knows most of Jared's sordid past--how he grew up in Texas, with a loving family and a good life. And then, his senior year of high school, he came out to his parents, they disowned him, and he ended up taking the bus as far as Boston, which was about when his money ran out. Finding Misha had been a godsend, and they've been living together for the last three years, through Misha graduating college and starting his PhD, and Jared settling into construction work and taking up night classes at a community college to try to work his way through his degree.

Misha understands Jared more than pretty much anyone else in the world.

"You know you have nothing to be ashamed of, don't you?" Misha asks, softly. "What you've done is incredible. Not everyone would have the strength to carry on like you have."

"I didn't have much choice," says Jared, but he feels a little better. He sighs. "Sometimes I think it would have been better to beg my parents to forgive me, tell them I'd change--just through college."

"I don't think so," says Misha calmly.

"No," Jared agrees. "Neither do I." He rubs his face, trying not to think about it too much. Three years, and it still hurts.

"Do you want to roll up as many women as you can?" Misha asks, offering the controller. "I know it isn't as appealing to you as it is to me, but still."

Jared laughs. "Yeah, that sounds good. Thanks."

"And if you're interested in becoming involved in any medical experiments, let me know. A new round just got posted."

"Legal ones through the school, or shady ones?"

"Both," says Misha placidly. "Whichever you'd prefer."

"Legal," says Jared, firmly.


It's ass o'clock and Jared is exhausted, but Misha goes to school early on Thursdays, and Jared would rather have a ride in than the extra sleep. He usually hangs out at one of the campus coffee shops and does his reading, pretending that he's a student here and not one of the construction guys who works a few blocks over.

So when the guy in front of him in line turns and Jared catches his profile and realizes it's the guy, the pretty guy, he decides that the universe is fucking with him. It's early, he's exhausted, he's got stubble, he's dressed for work, and this gorgeous man is in front of him, looking clean and polished and as if he likes being awake.

The guy doesn't seem to notice Jared's slack-jawed horror; he just turns his head back and continues to wait in line.

Jared is hyper-aware of the stupidest shit. He can't stop thinking about what he's doing with his hands, his legs, his mouth. He's half afraid he will do something stupid and try to smell the guy's hair. He doesn't think it would even be particularly exciting to smell, he's just so sure he's going to fuck this up somehow.

"Morning, Jensen," says the barista, a guy Jared has seen before. He doesn't know Jared's name.

"Morning, Aldis," the guy--Jensen--replies. He sounds less awake than he looks.

"Early class?" asks Aldis.

"Ha," says Jensen. "You know I don't have those. No, meeting an ensemble I might be playing with."

"Not if they have rehearsal this early."

"Before class," says Jensen, groaning as Aldis hands him his coffee. "You're a lifesaver, man. Remind me not to join this group."

"You got it."

Jared notices Jensen picking up an instrument case--violin, he guesses, or maybe viola--as he leaves the register, and tries not to stare.

"Morning," says Aldis. "What can I get you?"

Jensen's phone number, Jared thinks. Or a bridge to throw myself off. "Breakfast tea in the largest cup I can get, please," he says instead.

"You got it, my man," says Aldis.

Once he's got his drink, Jared tries not to scan the tables for Jensen, but it's a lost cause. And Jensen is gone anyway.

"Not pathetic at all," Jared mutters, and tries not to bang his head on the table.

Now that Jared has become aware of Jensen as more than just a pretty face, he feels like the guy is everywhere. It honestly kind of makes Jared feel like a creeper--he doesn't mean to notice the guy whenever he passes, but he's gorgeous, and he mutters to himself, and he almost always has his violin, like it's an extension of his arm. Jared doesn't know how he didn't notice before.

Well, Jensen's face is pretty distracting. That's kind of an excuse.

He must be associated with the conservatory, Jared decides, because he always seems to be going between there and the train, or sometimes the coffee shop. He generally looks like he's in a hurry, and in his own world, and it's all Jared can do not to sigh dreamily when he passes. He half expects that butterflies surround him every time he looks at the guy.

Which is kind of confirmed by Chad a few days into his embarrassing stalking.

"Dude, just wolf whistle. It's a conversation starter."

"Huh?" asks Jared, jerking out of his own thoughts. He thought he was alone.

"So you're a homo, big deal," says Chad, waving his hand. "Dude is pretty and his ass doesn't quit, he totally wants to know you know that."

Jared chokes. "What?"

"You were totally staring at that guy," says Chad mildly.

"Yeah, but--wait, what?"

"Doesn't look at chicks," says Chad, ticking points off his finger. "Does look at dudes. Good hygiene. Sometimes wears pink. Yeah, Jared, you're definitely gay."

"I know that," says Jared, flushing. He and Chad should have a conversation about stereotyping sometime. "When did you--I mean--what?"

"Dude, don't get your panties in a twist, I don't care. And no one else knows. You should probably try to wipe your mouth after Mr. Hotass passes, though. Not subtle."

Jared obeys without even thinking about it, although of course he isn't actually drooling. Not that he'd be that surprised if he was. "Shit," he mutters.

"Seriously, man, it's cool with me. I feel so much better about you. I thought you were a eunuch or something."

Jared shoots him a glare. "You know you're kind of a horrible person, right?"

Chad shrugs. "Yeah. Why?"

Jared doesn't really have a follow-up to that. "Just checking."

"So, who's the guy?"

"Some guy," says Jared, a little defensively.

"He walks by a lot."

"How do you know that?"

"I'm observant," says Chad. "I have hidden depths. Also, you always check him out."

"Right," says Jared, sighing. He glances around, but no one else is near them. "Okay, so, I was behind him in line at the coffee shop the other day, so I know his name is Jensen."

"Gay name, good sign."

"Yeah, I'm sure his parents named him that because they knew he'd turn out gay," Jared says, deadpan.

"What else? You google him?"

"No, I did not google him," says Jared. "What would I even google, Jensen hot guy conservatory?"

"Leave out hot guy and put in New England," says Chad, like Jared is the weird one in this conversation. "For starters."

"I'm not googling him."

"Uh huh," says Chad. "Sure you're not."

Of course, now that Chad has put the idea in his head, Jared can't stop thinking about googling Jensen, even though it will be completely useless. But it's like trying not to think about a purple elephant, or whatever, and by the time he gets home from work, he's determined. He grabs his laptop--well, Misha's laptop that he inherited when Misha got a new one--and starts internet-stalking Jensen the pretty violinist.

"I am a horrible person," he says, without looking up, when Misha comes in.

"Obviously," Misha agrees helpfully. "Why?"


"Chad telling you you're a horrible person is like a double negative," Misha points out. "It actually makes you a good person."

Jared laughs. "Thanks. But he actually figured out I'm gay, and told me I should google Jensen."

"And now you are," Misha supplies.

"I wasn't going to! But I couldn't stop thinking about it, and--yes, I am trying."


"A few professors, but their last names are Jensen, and I don't think he's a professor. And a PhD student, Jensen Ackles."

"What about him?"

Jared shrugs. "He exists?"

"Well, I'm glad he isn't some kind of bizarre hallucination," says Misha. "This is a little sad."

"I know," says Jared, sighing. "I--holy shit."

"Hm?" asks Misha.

"I found his facebook, and he--wow."

Jensen Ackles is definitely pretty Jensen, and there are these pictures Jared can see of him, one cuddled up to a tall, dark-haired man, and one where they're kissing.

Jensen Ackles is gay, and gorgeous, and has a hot boyfriend.

"Wow," says Misha, leaning over Jared's shoulder. "He is pretty. And he knows Tom."

Jared jerks around to stare up at him. "You know that guy?"

"Tom Welling," he says, nodding. "He's a coach at Northeastern. We've met a few times."


"Yeah, baseball. And I happen to know he is currently single."

"Why do you know that?"

"Remember Michael?"

"Crazy Mike who hangs out by the coffee shop?" asks Jared. "The one who's not really homeless?"

"He's a performance artist." There's a pause. "Who acts like a homeless person. Anyway, he's been keeping me updated about Tom Welling, and his relationship status, because they dated in high school and he wants him back. It's this whole big thing."

"How do you know all this? Do you just know everyone?"

"We have coffee and he bitches. It's cathartic."

"Your life is weird."

"Anyway, your dream boy is single. Michael told me Tom and his ex broke up a few months ago."

"So why does he still have facebook pictures?" Jared asks. "Also, why do I care? He's out of my league. He's hot, he's probably rich, and I've never even talked to him." He groans. "I'm going crazy. I blame Chad."

"Deep breaths," says Misha, amused. "I'd say you should just try talking to him, but I worry your head would explode."

"I've never actually been with a guy, remember?" Jared points out. "I came out, got disowned, and I've never even kissed a boy."

"Well, just let me know any time you want to, stud."

"I don't think Vicki would approve."

"You do not know my girlfriend very well," says Misha. He pats Jared on the shoulder. "Try not to worry so much. You seem convinced your past will make people less inclined to like you. It really won't."

Jared groans, rubbing his face. "I don't think that. I just--I wish I was still the kind of guy who talked to strangers on the street, you know?"

"You'll get there," Misha assures him. "Ideally with less stalking next time."

Jared can't help laughing. "Oh, screw you."

Jared is waiting for Misha to be finished with a late meeting at the coffee shop when he hears someone say, "Hey, can I sit with you?"

He looks up and it's Jensen Ackles, and he's giving Jared a gorgeous, nervous smile.

"It's a zoo in here," Jensen adds, inclining his head. Jared has no real sense of how long he's been sitting there working, but it's apparently been long enough that the cafe really has gotten busy. And long enough that Jensen came in. And wants to sit with him.

"Oh, yeah, of course," says Jared, shaking his head a little when he realizes Jensen probably wants an answer. "Have a seat."

"Thanks," says Jensen, and Jared tries not to feel like the world's biggest creeper for knowing his name. That, at least, was a total accident. The rest of it is, admittedly, weird and stalkerish. But Chad was involved. It's not entirely Jared's fault.

"Yeah, of course," says Jared, and kicks himself because he just said that. "I didn't notice how crowded it had gotten."

Jensen smiles, all white teeth, and Jared wonders if he can discreetly check to make sure he's not drooling. "Yeah, I get caught up sometimes too." He cocks his head, looking at Jared as if for the first time. "Hey, I know you."

Jared's sure he flushes all over. "Um--really?"

"Sorry," says Jensen. "That was awkward. Just--I've seen you around. You work at the construction site across the street, right?"

If Jared wasn't bright red before, he is now. "Yeah," he admits. "I--yeah."

"I thought so," he says, smiling like he doesn't care what Jared does. "Sorry, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"No, no," says Jared. "It's not that. I've actually seen you around too, I just--" he ducks his head. "I kind of assume no one notices me."

"It's okay, I think everyone's like that," says Jensen. He extends his hand. "Sorry, I'm being rude, I'm Jensen. I assume your name isn't actually hey, douchebag?" he adds, with a twinkle in his eye.

"No," Jared admits, laughing and shaking Jensen's hand. "That's just Chad. He thinks everyone's name is hey, douchebag. I'm Jared."

"Well, nice to meet you, Jared."

"You too." His honesty gets the best of him, and he gives Jensen an awkward smile. "I actually knew your name was Jensen. I heard you and, uh, Aldis talking? A few days ago. I'm good with names."

Jensen grins. "You really have seen me around."

"You're kind of noticeable," Jared says, and thanks a higher power that his phone buzzes before Jensen can answer. "That's my roommate," he says apologetically, ignoring the call and figuring Misha will understand. "He's my ride home. But it was nice to meet you. Officially."

"You too," says Jensen, with a laugh that lights up his whole face. "I'll see you around, Jared."

"Yeah," says Jared, unable to keep from smiling back. "See you."

"You can talk about it," Vicki tells Jared, with a smile that makes him feel like she's taking notes. She's sitting in the back seat, and it feels weirdly like he has a studio audience watching him. Jared likes Misha's girlfriend--really, he does. He's just also slightly terrified of her. "Misha's filled me in about your emo."

"All of my emo?" Jared asks, warily.

"I do not have secrets from my other half," says Misha. "Mostly I just told her you were a creepy stalker and we laughed about it."

"Well, that makes me feel better," Jared mutters.

"So, what happened?" asks Misha. "You're still red."

"I met Jensen," Jared says. "I mean, he sat with me. We talked."

"Did you tell him you stalked him?"

"Kind of. I told him I knew his name."


"He thought it was funny. He noticed me too."

"Did you have sex?" asks Vicki.

"No!" says Jared, horrified.

"Jared is a virgin," Misha supplies. "He's not going to give it up in a coffee shop bathroom on the first date."

"Shut up," Jared grumbles. "We just talked. He's nice. I--shut up."

"So, you could friend him on Facebook now," says Vicki brightly.

"Great," Jared mutters. "That wouldn't be weird."

Monday morning and Jared's in early again--Misha's schedule might kill him. He's attempting to finish his reading for class tonight when he hears someone say, "Oh, you drink tea, never mind," and glances up to see Jensen with two cups.

"Huh?" he asks. It's too early to really be functional.

Jensen flops down into the seat across from Jared without asking, which makes Jared's heart flutter a little. "The new guy made my drink with soy instead of milk, so they made me a new one and let me have the other one too. I was going to try to force it on you, but I don't know how you feel about froofy coffee drinks. It's peppermint," he adds.

"Oh," says Jared, perking up. "I like them, actually." He flushes, looking at his tea. "I just, um--"

Jensen laughs and slides the drink over. "Hey, you don't have to explain, I did the same thing my senior year of high school. I was convinced only girls could drink anything with foam in it, so I forced myself to have black coffee. Then I came out in college and decided I could drink whatever I wanted. Screw gender stereotypes."

Jared doesn't respond, mostly because he's too busy dwelling on the fact that a teabag only costs 75 cents, so it's the cheapest drink he can get and still be allowed to sit in here. Which wasn't really what Jensen did at all.

Jensen doesn't realize that's why he's quiet, though. "Oh, yeah, I'm gay," he says, rubbing the back of his neck. "I forget not everyone knows that."

"Oh!" says Jared, suddenly figuring out what Jensen must have thought. "Oh, no, I wasn't offended." He manages a smile. "I am too, actually. Sorry, I was just thinking." It's not the first time he's told someone he's gay, but it still trips him up a little; he still expects it to go badly.

"Oh," says Jensen, relaxing and smiling. "Well, go ahead and take the drink, anyway," he says. "I don't want it going to waste."

"Thanks," says Jared, accepting with a smile.

"Do you always come in this early?" Jensen asks.

"God no," Jared says, and then flushes at his outburst. He doesn't much like mornings himself. "I live over in Allston, so it's a pain to come in on the train. I get rides from my roommate whenever I can. Which sometimes means getting up really early. But it's better than fighting with the T or the bus."

"Gotcha," says Jensen. "I'm actually on my way out, so I gotta go. But have a good day, man."

"Yeah," says Jared, smiling. "You too. And thanks for the coffee."

"Enjoy," says Jensen, and takes off with a wave.

Jared feels warm and fuzzy for the rest of the day. It's actually kind of pathetic.

"It's not like I expected him to instantly ask me out or anything, I didn't really think he would. But--I always kind of hoped when I met a cute boy and we both established we were gay, a date would follow," Jared says, sighing. Misha is leaving a little early today, which means he's willing to drive Jared all the way to Southie for class. Jared's pretty psyched.

"I have a novel suggestion," says Misha.

"Is it me asking him out?" Jared asks flatly.

"Ding ding ding," says Misha. "Give the boy a prize."

"I know," says Jared. "I know! I should. But--he could say no."

"That is the risk you run," says Misha, nodding. "However, if you never ask, he can't say yes either."

Jared sighs. He figured out he was gay without ever involving other boys. He's kissed a few girls and was wholly unimpressed, and went on a few dates that never ended with any kind of real spark on his side. And then in tenth grade, Greg Olsen transferred into his class, and Jared realized what happened when you were actually attracted to someone, and a lot of things fell into place.

But he's never had a boyfriend, or even kissed a guy, and Jensen obviously has. Jared isn't sure he wants to deal with being a poor, inexperienced virgin with a guy like Jensen, who seems to have it all together.

"I know," he finally tells Misha. "I'm--thinking about it."

"Pretty much non-stop," Misha says, but he takes pity on Jared and changes the subject. "There's a psych study looking for males aged 18-25, I already gave them your name and e-mail address."

Jared perks up. "Yeah? What's the study?"

"Latent telepathy in humans. Very impressive." He snorts at Jared's dubious look. "Okay, I'm pretty sure it's bullshit, but it pays $50 for an hour of testing, so I thought you'd be interested."

"Very interested," says Jared, grinning. "There's nothing better than schools with research funds to burn."

"Amen to that," says Misha, and Jared resolves to use some of the money to get his roommate an awesome present.

"Okay," says Chad. "So what you need to do is start going to things he's gonna be at."

Jared didn't ask Chad for advice, just like he doesn't usually ask Misha. He has very well-intentioned and over-invested friends. It's kind of nice. Sometimes.

"Uh huh," says Jared.

"I mean, it's real fucking adorable and all that the two of you say hi to each other when he walks by and you stare at him, but it's not really a very deep relationship."

"And you care because...?"

"Dude, you need to get laid. Seriously."

Jared doesn't bother denying it. He's pretty sure if Chad knew he was a virgin, he'd hire a hooker just to remedy the situation. Which would be weird and very awkward.

"So your big plan is for me to stalk him more?"

"Uh, duh," says Chad. "Come on, look how well it's working for you!"

"It was pretty much a coincidence."

"You say coincidence, I say God's reward for being a creeper."

"That attitude explains so much about you," says Jared. He sighs. "Why is everyone obsessed with setting me up with Jensen?"

"Because you're mopey as shit and your pining is pathetic," says Chad. "Or you're a cool dude and we like you and want you to be happy."

"I like the second one better."

"Anyway, he's at the conservatory, right?"


"So they've got to have stuff. You know, events the public can go to. Pretend you're really into classical music, or whatever."

"Or I could stop worrying about my stupid crush and focus on my job and my classes," says Jared, reasonably.

"If you want to die alone, yeah."

Jared rubs his face. "That's the plan, yeah."

It turns out Jared is not psychic, but he still gets paid for the study, which goes a long way to cushioning the blow. It really is only an hour of work, which is nice, but that leaves him with a whole lot of weekend to fill and not much to do with it.

It's not that Jared doesn't like free time, he just hasn't really ever recovered the kind of social life he had in high school. And he knows he's got to stop dwelling on that, but--his classes are these big, lecture-hall things, and he hasn't managed to bond with any of his classmates, and no one at work really knows him very well except for Chad. And he's wary of spending social time with Chad. He feels like it would end with felony charges.

"I have got to stop feeling sorry for myself," Jared mutters, scrubbing his face. It's a beautiful day, early spring in Boston, not really all the way warm yet, but pleasant, and the sun is shining. Going home to do his reading for Tuesday would be depressing and upsetting. And just kind of generally sad.

Instead, he decides to head over to the Conservatory and see if he can find some free events he could go to without feeling like too much of a tool. It feels pathetic, but actually a little less pathetic than just pining for Jensen and not doing anything about it. At least this is productive.

Apparently the universe agrees, because he finds Jensen actually hanging up a poster for an event.

"Hi," he says, before he can talk himself out of it.

Jensen looks up and grins, easy and friendly. "Hey! Dude, what are you doing here? You don't work weekends, do you?"

"Oh, no," says Jared, flushing. He doesn't really want to admit he was doing a questionable medical study to make some extra cash, so he flails and tells the first lie he comes up with. "Just doing a little studying."

"Yeah?" asks Jensen, clearly a little surprised. "You aren't at the conservatory, are you?"

"Oh, no," says Jared, and then, for no reason he can fathom, continues, "Northeastern."

"Oh, cool!" says Jensen, with a smile. "I didn't know that."

"Just part time," says Jared.

Jensen nods. "Well, that's awesome, man," he says. He cocks his head at Jared. "Okay, random question--are you from Texas?"

Jared blinks. "Yeah," he says, a little warily. "Why?"

"I am too," says Jensen, with a big smile. "Richardson. I thought your accent sounded familiar."

"San Antonio," says Jared.

"Far from home," Jensen says, and Jared doesn't wince, but it's close. Jensen doesn't seem to notice, which is nice. "You know, I'm starting to think this is fate."

Jared chokes a little. "What?"

Jensen smiles, looking amused, but not meanly. "We just keep running into each other, you know? I feel like I see you everywhere. And I never meet Texas boys."

"Well, they all want to stay in Texas and reproduce," Jared grumbles.

"I guess you don't go back much," Jensen says, laughing. "I don't blame you. I never had much luck with Texas boys either."

Jared smiles a little weakly. "Yeah, I--it's not my favorite place to be," he says.

Jensen puts his hand on Jared's shoulder, all warm support and affection, and it's so easy for him Jared can't quite believe it. He realizes with a sinking feeling that he's never really met anyone who's happy being gay. Not that he himself is unhappy with it, so much as he just doesn't know how to forget that this one thing cost him so much else.

"Do you want to go on a date with me?" Jared asks, just blurting it all out. He feels like the least smooth guy on the planet.

Jensen smiles, but it's warm in a way that makes Jared think the answer is going to be no.

"Sorry," he says, instantly. "Sorry, I shouldn't have--"

"Jared," says Jensen, squeezing his shoulder. "You have nothing to apologize for. Seriously. And I definitely want to hang out and get to know you? But I just broke up with my boyfriend a couple months ago, and I'm not really ready to date again."

"Oh," says Jared. "Yeah, I guess that would--"

"As soon as I am I'll take you up on that, though," says Jensen, with a much bigger smile, and a wink. Jared kind of wants to die, even though it's going well. "You're cute."

Jared flushes all over. "Oh."

"So, my friend Danneel is having a party tonight. You should grab your roommate and come."

"My roommate?"

"Or another friend. I've been that guy who's alone at a hot guy's party, it's awkward."

"There's going to be a hot guy at this party?" Jared asks, before he can think better of it, but he has no regrets when Jensen stares for a second and then laughs, delighted.

"So, give me your number and I'll text you the address?" Jensen suggests, shaking his head with a grin. "I have to get to work."


"I volunteer at the MFA," Jensen says. "I have a short shift Saturday afternoons."

"Oh," says Jared. "That sounds cool."

"It is, yeah," says Jensen. "I like it."

"Yeah," says Jared, feeling awkward. He doesn't quite know how to feel right now--Jensen said no, but it was a good no, he thinks. And Jensen wants him to go to a party. And he asked, which is exciting all on its own. "I'll just give you my number and let you get going."

Jensen smiles. "Sounds awesome." They exchange information, and Jensen even shoots Jared a text just to make sure it works. Jared tries not to do something stupid, like swoon. He should tell Jensen not to text--he doesn't have a plan that covers it--but he doesn't really want to get into that. "So, I'll see you tonight?" Jensen asks, sounding kind of hopeful.

"Yeah," says Jared, smiling back. "See you."