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Making Spirits Bright

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Jared has a bit of a routine.

Alarm goes off at 6:45. Takes a piss, brushes his teeth, starts coffee. Shower by 6:50. Coffee, bowl of cereal, makes bed by 7:15. Checks email, sends off necessary replies, gathers any work he brought home in the previous evening, out the door with his headphones on by 7:40. On the subway at 8:05. He settles back into the scoop of plastic, closes his eyes briefly, and sighs with relief.

He loves when things go smoothly.

There’s another guy on the subway who has a routine, too.

Jared started noticing him a month or so ago, and now the guy is just part of the routine. He gets on three stops after Jared, bookbag over his shoulder, coat buttoned all the way up, a deep blue knitted scarf around his neck. He’s usually flushed, cheeks and mouth pink, his eyes bright and almost flooded with clarity, a gorgeous earthen green that Jared noticed on day one. He sits across from Jared and three seats over, and he has his headphones, too.

Some mornings they glance at each other, share a small smile or a nod, sometimes there’s a mutual pained look if someone’s preaching or playing the saxophone or arguing loudly on the phone or getting to third base in the corner of the car or dragging along a screaming child. They share those moments, and it’s comforting. Familiar.

Jared has a crush.

It’s the holiday season, and the subway feels more crowded every day, like more people come out of their caves or from under their rocks before Christmas or something. There are a lot more people in his car, new people who are certainly not a part of his routine. He just shoves himself up tight against the rail next to his seat and keeps his head down.

It’s not hard to get people to leave him alone. Not only is he taller than most everybody around him, but his double lip rings, dimple piercings, faded green hair tied up messy bun, and his scores of tattoos under his decidedly ratty, gutterpunk clothes keep most people from thinking they can fuck with him.

He kinda likes it that way.

 

It’s December 17th, and he’s listening to Sinatra this morning on the way to his comic book shop in NoHo. He’s almost smiling at people this morning, his leg bouncing to the jaunty music, and he has to look away from the happy little old lady beside him to keep from grabbing her up and dancing with her.

Sinatra just makes him happy, fuck off.

When Marcy Ave Boy (yeah, Jared’s named the guy after his stop) gets on Jared watches him, doesn’t look away, watches him settle into his seat, tug his coat tighter around him and pull out his Kindle like he does every morning, lost in his own little world until something forces him out.

The boy glances up after they start moving again, catching Jared’s eyes as if by accident. Jared’s whole face eases into a soft kind of happiness that his heart has reserved for this boy, and his smile probably reveals a little too much of his adoration.

Marcy Ave Boy smiles right back, his cold-flushed cheeks deepening in color just slightly before he looks back down. Jared sighs, a deep breath that he lets out slowly, and he tips his head back to rest against the wall of the car, his eyes falling closed while “I’ve Got a Crush On You” starts up in his headphones.

Someday. Someday he’ll get up, do something about this. Change their routine.

They cross the East River from Brooklyn over to Manhattan, and Jared is lightly dozing like he usually does on this longer part of the commute. At the Essex Street stop, the doors open, and more people pile in, upsetting the calm that’s settled over the car in the drive over the river.

A Santa gets on.

No, really. Like. A big-bellied, sweaty, red-faced dude in a ratty-ass Santa getup stumbles into the car, hovering near the door as they start moving again and almost falling on his ass as a result. He’s got a hairy beer gut and his eyes are wild as they move over the car, staring at everybody blatantly, like they can’t see him or something.

Jared’s tense with some inexplicable anxiety, watching the guy carefully, waiting to see what he does.

So of course Sweaty Santa shuffles over and sinks down beside the boy. His boy. Jared holds his breath, can’t tear his eyes away.

The boy notices, Jared can tell by the way he pulls his shoulders in, trying to make himself smaller as he grips his Kindle tighter, peering down at it through his glasses and reading with much more obvious intent, everything about him screaming leave me alone. Do not talk to me.

Santa looks over at Marcy Ave, his eyes dragging slow and obvious over the boy’s face, catching on his rather beautiful mouth that’s pulled into a tight line as he realizes what’s happening.

Jared hits pause on his phone, music going quiet, the sounds of the subway car flooding through.

“Hey,” Santa slurs, the word dragging out until it’s slimy, naughty, his face pulling into a smirk. The boy’s jaw tightens but he doesn’t respond.

“You’re pretty,” Santa tries again. No one is paying them any attention, not so much as glancing up from whatever it is they’re doing, even if all they’re doing is very staunchly ignoring drunk Santa. The boy moves over, edging closer to the middle-aged guy on his other side, practically pressing up against the guy’s side to put some space between him and Santa. He keeps his head down, headphones on, eyes moving over his device.

“That’s a hot mouth you’ve got,” the drunk guy continues, moving closer to the boy, his arm coming up to wrap around the boy’s shoulders. Jared shoves his phone in his pocket, legs tensed, ready to stand. “How much?”

The boy looks over for the first time, his eyebrows raised.

“Excuse me?”

“For a BJ? I don’t got much on me, but, uh. I won’t take long, I swear. We can go into the bathroom at the 2nd Ave station and--”

“Get your fucking hands off of me.” The boy all but shoves the Santa guy away, pushing him with enough force that the guy nearly falls. The boy jumps up, shoving his Kindle into his bag and pulling his knit cap down on his head, his face burning hot. He grabs the pole near him so he doesn’t fall as the train slows to a stop, other people getting up now.

Jared jumps up, heart in his throat. He stretches up to see the guy over the crowd, through the people filing out, and he sees his black knit cap disappearing through the station, rushing away from the train.

He shoves through people, slipping off just as the doors are closing, and he looks around at the unfamiliar station before he rushes after the boy, using his size to push through and catch up to him. He puts a hand on his shoulder, a rushed, desperate decision, and he is completely unprepared for the way the boy turns around, both hands connecting with Jared’s chest to just shove him.

Jared stumbles back, knocking into a few people, his eyes huge with surprise. The boy realizes his mistake almost immediately, and he gets his hands on Jared again, grabbing the leather jacket he wears over his hoodie and pulling Jared upright again, those big eyes blinking up at him, filled with apology.

“Shit, I am so sorry. Wow, I’m. I don’t usually.” The boy looks down then, fingers still gathered on Jared’s jacket, on the cold zipper. “I thought--”

“That I was molester Santa coming to accost you again?” Jared smiles, gently taking hold of the boy’s arm to move them off to the side and out of the way of the shifts of people pushing around them. “No, I just. I know you don’t usually get off here, and I just. I dunno. Wanted to make sure you were okay.”

The boy ducks his head, smiling down between them, his hands dropping away from Jared’s body.

“You know where I get off?”

“Well. Well, yeah, you get off at Bleecker like I do, but--” Jared stops, caught, and it’s his turn now to look shy. His dimples tug on the piercings in them that highlight the way they wink, hands going in the pockets of his ratty jeans. “Sorry. That sounds creepy. I don’t mean to be creepy.”

“You’re not creepy,” the boy says down to Jared’s secondhand boots, his glasses slipping a little down his nose. He looks back up finally, meeting Jared’s eyes with a bashfully flirtatious smile. “I… I’ve noticed you, too. I’m glad you finally said something to me. I never really worked up the courage to.”

Jared tugs on one of the hoops through his lip with his teeth, releasing it with a grin.

“Because I look weird, or…?”

“No! Because you’re really hot.” The boy sucks in a breath, eyes rounding even more than usual at the accidental confession. Jared grins even harder, reaching up to shove a few stray strands of faded seafoam green back away from his face. “A-Anyway. I’m Jensen.”

“Jared.” He searches the boy’s eyes, taking a step closer to him without even realizing it, just enjoying this closeness, the immediate chemistry and tension between them. He’s not even thinking about his routine anymore, about the things he needs to get done today, he just knows he wants to see more of Jensen’s smile. “So, hey, listen. Do you have some time? We can go grab some coffee and talk about how much better Brooklyn is and see if I can talk you into getting something pierced before noon.”

Jensen laughs, head tipping back as the sound bursts out of him, beautiful and unexpected, and Jared just watches him, hands gripping the strap on his bag, eyes soft with affection.

“Yeah,” Jensen finally replies, looking up at Jared through his lashes with a sweet little smile. “Let’s do it.”