It starts like this; they're sitting at a booth in Blaze, the local and bizarrely named bar. Jared's successfully ignoring Chad's rambling until his best friend touches on something Jared often thinks about himself. Usually he can push the words away and laugh at the fact that Chad, of all people, is judging him, but whenever he's got some alcohol in him and his defences are down, the words strike him hot, leaving a slightly singed mark in their wake. Today's words of advice are the usual song and rhyme.
"You're boring," Chad slurs. "When was the last time you dated anybody? And that loser accountant doesn't count because he was a lot more boring than you are. You should do something with your life, Jared."
Jared's response is the same as it always is, "I'm sitting here with you, ain't I?" He's not sure why his private life is any of Chad's business, but that's a bridge for another time. All he wants to do is enjoy his beer in peace and then go home and work on cleaning out his DVR, and fuck, so what, he's boring. It's his life.
"Yeah, well, maybe I'm tired of sitting with your sorry ass!" Chad doesn't mean it, Jared knows that somewhere in his alcohol clouded mind, however, he feels the slight and he decides that he's had enough. He knocks back the rest of his beer and slides out of the booth. He'll show Chad that he can shake things up a little. He's not just some loser who plays poker with pensioners every day because they're the only ones who come into his record store. Taking a cursory glance around the bar, he spies the lead singer of the band that performed a few hours earlier. He strides over to him and sits down, ignoring the way the singer's orange juice almost topples over.
"I'm not boring," he says without thinking. "Just because I don't think getting blackout drunk every night is fun, and because I don't sleep with every guy who looks at me, it doesn't mean that I'm boring. Right?" The guy stares at him, his eyes twinkling with his amusement.
"This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love Blaze." The rest of the night is surreal. He remembers following the guy backstage, and then onto a tour bus. There are drinks, girls, guys, and a lot of drug paraphernalia that he pretends not to see. He and the guy, Jensen, end up talking all night, about life, love, hell even the war on terror and at some point Jared concedes Chad's point. He's so boring that he's got a rock star discussing the fucking news.
He decides right there and then to take a leap.
"Hey, do you want to get out of here?" he asks. Jensen's answer is a quirk of lips and twinkling eyes.
The real story begins three months later when Jared goes right ahead and falls in love with the guy. It's crazy, and it makes no sense but there's something about Jensen that pulls him in. Jared keeps away from the music side of things because Jensen's band represents everything he hates, right down from their perfectly cultivated 'bad boy' image right down to the groupies and hanger-on’s. Jensen's different though, because he understands Jared. He doesn't judge Jared for wanting a calm and easy life, and he actually inspires Jared to write again. Some might say it's fate, while others might write them off before they've even started.
"All I'm saying is that when I hear you waxing lyrical over this guy it makes me want to puke," Chad is saying during movie night. All of Jared's friends are watching on with amused expressions except for Sandy who thinks that Jensen sounds nice. "And then I go online and there he is stumbling out of some club with the rest of his skeevy entourage behind him."
"We're just friends," Jared insists because it's the truth; just not his truth. He hasn't told anybody how he really feels because he doesn't do this. He's controlled, he gives everything time and he doesn't fall in love with people that he only communicates with over the internet or hazy nights back at his apartment where they talk about everything and nothing at all. Jensen doesn't even drink around him and Jared's never asked why. He's an escape and he knows it. Jensen's life is crazy and Jared is calm. Well, kind of. It's a controlled calm, but Jensen doesn't need to know that. Not yet.
"Really?" Mike asks. "Is that why he dedicated "Two Halves" to you at their Houston show last night?" This is the first that he's hearing of this and he doesn't know what it means, if it means anything. Two Halves is one of the songs that wasn't produced by some jumped up auto-tune loving producer on the band's album. Jensen says that he wrote it about a potential soul mate; the kicker being that he believes that everyone has several soul mates.
"I don't even like that song," he lies. "So clearly he can't have done.” Sandy gives him a knowing look but she says nothing. Jared only wishes that all of his friends would follow suit. "Besides, you guys are always calling me boring and now I'm going off the rails because I'm hanging out with some up and coming rock star?"
"Fine," Chad says. "Fine. So long as you're happy, we're happy. Anything is better than you sitting at home, wasting your life away. We just don't want another repeat of Robert." Jared nods, silently cursing Chad for daring to say that name. The memories begin to flood his brain and soon the crowd and chatter fade away into a hazy blur as white noise surrounds him. He slips out as soon as he gets an opportunity.
Robert is an old flame of Jared's, a perfect example of the way the industry chews people up and spits them out. Way back, before he got the record store, he was in the business. He wrote press releases, played babysitter and watched as stars came and went, some still burning brightly, some dim and some faded completely. In the midst of all that, there was Robert. He took an interest; he liked Jared's songs, even asked to use one once, and the suit in closet is always a stark reminder of the fallout from that. They were never in an actual relationship but it was close, they exchanged 'I love you's', told each other that they were everything and then Robert got his deal and dropped Jared just like that. He upped and moved to LA, with one of Jared's songs and with his heart.
Jensen's nothing like that is what he tells himself. Maybe he's right, maybe he's wrong. Jared figures that he can always dwell on it later.
They're sitting in the bed of Jared's truck, staring up at the stars. Jensen's got a night off and he's spending it here. Jared can't help but consider that he could be doing something else. Something becoming of a rock star.
Jensen turns to look at him, his green eyes gleaming black in the dark. "I dedicated 'Two Halves' to you the other night. I had to keep it all genderless and nameless, else the PR people would have been all over my ass." Jared doesn't know what he's supposed to say to that. His feelings burn bright and loud, but so does the fear of getting hurt again.
"You didn't have to do that," he says instead. He makes a big show of checking his watch. "I should go." He inches forward but Jensen's hand on his arm stops him. He's not angry, not even irritated, he just...doesn't think that this is a good idea.
"Wait. I didn't mean to make you mad. I just...I know what's printed in the media and I wanted you to know that it's all for show, that I'm always thinking of you no matter what I do."
Jared looks down. "Why would I need to know that?"
Jensen's reply seems like a whisper and shout all at the same time. "'Cause, I like you. A lot. And I'm hoping that you like me too." Jared looks up. The stars are bright, shining in the darkness of the black sky, illuminated by the moon.
He wonders if it's a sign.
Dating Jensen is...interesting.. It's almost a reverse of the three month they spent dancing around each other. There's little talking. Jensen's out of town a lot and when he isn't, their interactions are mostly physical, hands digging into skin, leaving bruises, kiss-swollen lips, hand imprint on heart. Two days before Jensen's band is due to travel to New York to record their album, he persuades Jensen to meet his friends. Jensen doesn't think much of them and they don't think much of him, and Jared? He just wants everybody to get along. He wants Jensen to drop the persona and act the way he does around Jared. He tells him this as they're getting ready, with a comforting hand on Jensen's bare back. He says, 'just be yourself'. Jensen shoves him back lightly, but Jared stumbles and bumps into the edge of his dresser, hissing as it glides across his arm, leaving an angry red mark on the skin. Jensen's eyes are wide with horror when he turns around. Jared frowns because it's just a scratch, from a little shove. Yet there's something in Jensen's eyes that worry him, a secret that he doesn't know.
"We can just stay in if you want," he says quickly. He's seen Jensen when he's stressed, knows that he's under pressure to write songs for the next album. He doubts that an evening with Chad is going to make him feel any better.
"I'm sorry about your arm," Jensen says. "And I'm okay. I'm not going to pass up a chance on showing Chad that you're not boring or whatever the fuck. Just give me a few minutes and I'll be ready."
Jared nods and leaves the room, confusion spinning in his mind rapidly. He regrets telling Jensen all of that stuff about his friends, wishes that he hadn't vented so much. He wants them all to get along and he might have just screwed everything up.
The night starts off on a strange note when Jensen ordering tequila shots for all of them. Jared doesn't call him out on it, but in all the time he's known him, he's never seen him drink. The shots online are all staged, that's what Jensen says. Looking at him now, he's not so sure. A flash throws Jared out of thoughts and he realises that someone is snapping pictures.
"Are you seeing this?" Jared whispers to Jensen. "Do you want me to go and stop them?" Jensen looks back at him and smirks.
"Oh, let them take their pictures. They're from the record company. They're trying to generate some buzz and what better than the male lead singer having a boyfriend?" Jensen's voice is flat and devoid of emotion and it's wrong. All wrong.
"And you knowingly let Jared walk into your trap?" Chad, who's been on his best behaviour all night, speaks up, because he apparently doesn't care if he's caught eavesdropping. "That's nice."
"You don't like me very much do you?" Jensen says. "And I don't blame you. You're the guy who thinks that Jared is boring and rigid, you do everything in your power to belittle him at every turn."
"I'm just looking out for my best friend," Chad spits out. "I don't want him to make the same mistake twice." Jensen doesn't know about Robert, but Jared hears what his best friend is saying, loud and clear. He gets that Chad is looking out for him, and that Jensen is doing the same thing. He just doesn't know if both of his worlds can coexist now.
Jensen's band dissolves into a mass of broken pieces a year to the day that Jared meet him. The drummer is caught snorting cocaine at the Bellagio, the grainy footage undeniable and damning, and two days later he's gets into an accident and in a 'critical condition'. There are solemn press conferences in which they vow to carry on but something is broken. They say they taking a leave of absence, but it feels like the end.
Jensen takes it well enough, or so Jared thinks. He moves back to Texas. He introduces Jared to his friends. They do normal couple stuff, and Jensen even manages to broker a peace deal with Chad. However if there's one thing that Jared knows, it's that life falls apart when you least expect it to.
Jared's locking up the store and humming to himself; one of his songs. He feels good. Life is still that bubble he’s ensnared in, comfy and warm with Jensen, without a care in the world. He pulls down the shutter and puts the pole back on the ledge, rubbing his hands together in the chilly air, hoping to generate some heat. He turns and stops; Robert’s standing there, leaning against his truck and Jared feels something snap inside of him, whether it’s anger or regret, he doesn’t know. It feels like both.
“Don’t I get a thank you?” The voice hits him like a wave, crashing over him, drowning him, leaving him gasping for relief. Guilt floods him and Jared starts to wonder if he’s made a mistake. “It’s funny how people talk in the industry isn’t it? Especially certain reporters who’ll do anything for a quick buck.” No. No, no, no. This can’t be happening. Jared can’t deal with this. He finally has Jensen with him for good, no more tours or state performances, no more having to see other hands on what’s his. He made sure of that, and nobody was meant to know. The wind crackles and a rumble sounds. Jared looks up; the sky’s grey, angry clouds billowing as the congregate as one. Everything’s wrong, but he’s not going to fall apart. Not here, not now. He’s happy.
“I knew as soon as I saw the footage that your grubby little hands were all over it,” Robert sneers as he steps closer. “I don’t care what Chad says. You’re not sick, you’re just a manipulative bastard. You ruined my career.”
Jared stands his ground. “No, you did that by yourself. I would have given you everything, a song, my life, anything and you took advantage of that - of me - and you can’t blame me for wanting to get revenge. You did a lot of bad things to a lot of people and all I did was try to seek justice for them.”
It appears that ‘later’ is here and Jared’s ready to dwell. See, when Robert left, Jared wasn’t just devastated, he was heartbroken. Nothing made sense and life spiralled out of control, there was drinking, drugs, guys - all the things that took Robert away from him in the first place. These things were replaced by pastel coloured offices and a prescription for lithium once Chad caught wind of what was happening. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder iand all Jared remembers thinking is that it was Robert’s fault.
“What about your boyfriend?” Robert asks. “Was it worth destroying his career just so you could have him all to yourself? Because that’s why you did it right, you somehow got access to that video and you sold it to that site. Just so you wouldn’t lose Jensen to fame and fortune.” Jared bundles his coat tightly, digging his hands into his pockets as white puffs of air swarm around him. Maybe he did have something to do with it, maybe he got scared. Maybe he saw so much of Robert in Jensen that he panicked and did something stupid, it doesn’t matter because Jensen’s okay. Now he can focus on his solo work and forget about that commercial crap he was singing every night.
“You can’t prove anything,” he says, before pushing past Robert so he can get to his truck. “So why don’t you go back to teaching whiny, spoilt brats how to sing nursery rhymes.”
Jared’s back at Blaze with Chad, though his mind is with Jensen who’s been in a surly mood for the past few weeks. He’s tried making it better with gifts, songs, hell even sex, but nothing is working. It’s hard to watch, seeing a creative soul suffer because of something he did out of desperation. That’s why he dates accountants and bankers, that’s why he does boring. It doesn’t make him do stupid shit, doesn’t make him irrational.
“Are you feeling okay?” Chad asks when Jared checks his phone for the fifteenth time. “Don’t get mad at me for asking this, but you’re taking your medication right?” Jared lies and says that he is, but the truth is that he stopped three months ago, when Jensen’s band fell apart. He doesn’t need them anymore, not now that Jensen’s staying.
Jensen’s mood seems to pick up for their first anniversary, which they spend tucked up on the couch surrounded by Chinese takeout containers. He’s laughing and joking and Jared suddenly thinks about all the things that he hasn't told him. The tape, his illness, Robert, all of it.
He decides not to tell him.
"Look, I know that we had this conversation a long time ago but you know I was kidding about you being boring? It was a stupid thing to say." Chad's rambling and Jared doesn't know what he's trying to say, doesn't really care - not when he's just had a fight with Jensen over forks of all things.
"You were right," he says regardless. "And I took your advice and now I'm better!" Chad stares at him for a long time before he shrugs and looks away. He is better. Especially without the medication blurring things and making life hazy. He feels alive and free, and he wants to share that with Jensen. If only they can stop arguing over the dumbest shit. There's a thwack on the table, he looks up to see a box of pills and Chad's serious expression. He swallows hard and thinks don't take the stars away from me.
"Did Robert tell you?" he asks, because there's no point in lying to Chad. His best friend has a way of getting the truth out of him. "That I was responsible for the video."
Chad snorts. "Fuck Robert. That drummer was a coke head and he was going to get his ass busted either way. It doesn't matter that you maybe had a hand in making sure it happened. Don't let Rob fuck with your head, Jared, don't let any of them." Chad's right, and as he looks up and hears Jensen sing out the last note, he knows what he has to do.
"I'm losing him," he says. "I thought that if the band wasn't there, he'd have something to stay for but I'm losing him. He misses it, the touring the fans...he misses all of it." Chad doesn't say much, he just pats Jared on his arm. A simple gesture with a clear message. 'I'm here'.
Jared comes home late one evening to find Jensen sitting in the dark, staring at the patch on the wall. It hits him then that he has no idea when Jensen moved into his place. They never spoke about it, it just happened so gradually that he didn't really notice. He should have noticed. It is probably down to the new meds. Things are duller but Jared isn't crippled by constant fear anymore and he actually feels good about himself. The only problem is Jensen.
"I know what you did," he slurs from his place on the couch. "I've known since it happened but I didn't blame you for the band splitting. I thought you were just trying to help Guy out, give him a chance to get clean. But I got an interesting call today." Jared swallows, instantly regretting that that he still hasn't come clean up until now. Fucking Robert, he thinks, fucking Robert.
"You sabotaged my band, the same way you did your ex," Jensen spits out. " Hope you're happy about that."
Jared's emotions get the better of him and he snaps. "Like you're so better. I've had to dance around your fucking issues for months. You're deluding yourself if you think you've been perfect over the past year." Jared knows that Jensen is drunk, that he shouldn't engage but the coward in him think it'll be easier to have this argument now. While Jensen isn't sober enough to remember all of it.
"Don't you dare," Jensen hisses, up from the couch by now and so close to Jared that he can smell the alcohol on his breath. "Don't you dare try to spin this on me! I had to find out that you're bipolar from Chad. You didn't even have the balls to tell me. And I kept waiting and waiting but you don't trust me do you?"
"How could I?" Jared retorts. "You're so wrapped up in yourself, in your music. You're selfish. Fuck you." It's one of those arguments. The kind where Jared knows he's not winning but he doesn't care. The kind that leads to trouble.
"Oh, I'm selfish?" Jensen laughs bitterly, stumbling slightly as his chest heaves. "Says the one who ruined my career."
Jared shakes his head. "I saved you! Why can't you see that? I saved you. But now you've fucked it all up. You've been drinking and pretending that everything is okay and I'll admit it. I was a little messed up for a while and I didn't see it before, but I see it now. I know exactly when you really feel back into the habit again."
"You saved me?" Jensen laughs again, harsh and unforgiving. "You really are a whack job." It's the drink talking, Jared knows that. He knows! Let it go, let it go, let it go. He pleads with himself tries to shove the anger down but it boils over and spills out.
"Anything is better than being a jobless, whiny, insufferable asshole," he spits out. "The fact that you have nothing is your own fault."
There's a deafening silence and then there's pain.
Jared thinks about running. He thinks about calling the police, or Chad. Maybe Sandy. Maybe his parents. Maybe one of those phone lines you hear about on TV. He thinks about it so hard that his head hurts. All the while Jensen is standing over him, apologising profusely and he knows that he’s not going to call anybody because it was an accident and reacting angrily won’t help either of them.
None of this is going to help either of them.
Jensen goes and takes the noise with him, leaving Jared with his quiet nine to when he chooses at the record store and nights at the bar with Chad and his friends. They ask questions, first about the bruise around his eye and then about Jensen’s absence but he shrugs it off. He’s busy thinking. About Robert, about Jensen and about whether he did the right thing. Eighteen months ago he thought he was just a guy with a record store going about life easy as pie, but Chad hit on something all those nights ago. Not even the whole boring thing, not really. It’s the restlessness; the fact that he’s intentionally keeping himself away from something that he loves because he doesn’t want another repeat of Robert.
That didn’t really work out so well now, did it?
Writing music is his passion, pouring emotion into songs and watching as they come to life either in some fresh, wide-eyed kid’s crappy one room apartment or a stuffy office building at one of the record companies. It’s why he got so angry when Robert stole his song (and his heart), why he didn’t understand why Jensen and his band sang all of those lifeless songs. And it is why he knows that regardless of his feelings, or his illness, he was wrong to take music away from both Robert and Jensen. That was wrong and in the case of Robert, the apology dancing around in his brain is probably undeserved but for the sake of his sanity Jared’s going to suck it up and do it. With Jensen...that’s a whole other ballpark and he knows that if he wants things to work out he has to give it time. He has to let Jensen get the help that he needs and trust that all that they shared can withhold the test of time.
Robert meets him at a restaurant downtown, ever-present sneer present on his lips. Jared takes a deep breath and steels himself, remembering what his therapist told him about confronting his fears. Robert can’t hurt him anymore because someone else has his heart and as long as he keeps that in mind, there’s no way this meeting can go left.
“What do you want?” Robert spits out once he’s been seated. “I have a bunch of spoilt brats to teach after all.” Jared watches him carefully as he does his best to choose his words. Watching him is a revelation in itself because this is what it looks like. This is what it looks like to hold onto things that you can’t change, to cling to the past because it’s all that keeps you going. This is what it’s like when there's bitterness and loneliness and Jared doesn’t want this for himself, or Jensen. He doesn’t want to do this to anyone else, no matter how much they deserve it.
“I wanted to say that I was sorry,” Jared says. “I’m sorry for leaking that tape. At the time, I wanted to get you back. Wanted you to suffer the way I was suffering and I knew that you’d fuck up and I took advantage of that. I...no matter what you did to me, it was wrong of me and I’m sorry.” His words seem to have a strange effect on Robert because his sneer fades slowly, and morphs into what looks like surprise. There’s a lengthy pause as he mulls the words over and Jared has to send the waiter away. He doubts that either of them will order anything here. They’re not friends, and they never will be. Jared doesn’t think that he can stomach an entire meal with the man, not when his heart is pounding in his chest and it feels as if the air conditioner in this place is broken.
Robert surprises him when he says. “Don’t be sorry.” It’s three words and not the three that Jared’s expecting. He’s not expecting Robert to look so...human, not after all the bitterness and hate that’s been slung his way.
“What?” he says eventually, when the silence between them grows. Not an eloquent response but hopefully one that’ll get the conversation moving so they can both get the hell out of here and move on with their lives.
“I said don’t be sorry,” Robert says gruffly. “I did a fucked up thing stealing your song and...the truth is that I deserved what you did. And you know, maybe you didn’t fuck up my career. Maybe I did that all by myself when I sold myself as something that I wasn’t. And maybe I was on the brink of being dropped anyway when those tapes hit the internet. It doesn’t matter, Jared. I’m not...I’m not angry with you. Not really.”
“You just resent me instead?” To say Jared’s confused would be an understatement.
Robert smiles sadly. “Chad called me back then, explained your diagnosis and I got it back then. That I drove you to do what you did and I felt bad. But it was easier to blame you than to face up to reality and for that I’m sorry.”
There’s not much to say after that and they part ways with a swift hand shake and the hope that one day, they’ll even be friends.
“Maybe I’ll write you a song,” Jared says before Robert turns to go. “I’ve been writing again.” Robert probably doesn’t care but he was around the last time Jared didn’t any serious writing and it seems right to share this with him.
“That’s great,” Robert says with a genuine smile. “But maybe you should write the rock star a song first. I might have been a jackass to you but he didn’t deserve the ‘leaked footage’ treatment.” The mention of Jensen is like a stab to the heart. Jared’s really fucked things up this time, forced a lot of proverbial demons out of the closet and he’s torn between believing that he did the right thing and thinking that maybe Jensen needed to figure his own shit out with any outside involvement.
“I know,” Jared replies sadly. He knows which one of those is the truth.
“Are you taking your pills?” Chad asks the next night when he comes over for pizza and the baseball game on TV. It’s routine now. Chad asks, Jared answers and they both pretend that they’re okay with it. Jared knows that he hasn’t given Chad any reason to trust him the same way Chad knows that Jared’s not going to open up until he’s left with no choice. In this case, his hand is literally forced when one of those sixty-second news bulletins pops up on the screen.
Jensen Ackles, the former lead singer of the band Dichotomy, checked into rehab yesterday for what is rumoured to be stress related issues. When asked, his manager--
“Those guys really shot themselves in the foot the day they picked that name,” Chad remarks as he switches the channel hastily, leaving Jared to wonder just what Jensen’s manager said. If Jared thinks about all the months they spent together, it was only the last few months where Jensen’s drinking reached a level of concern but there were drugs and other substances around the band so rehab isn’t really a surprise. He’s glad that Jensen’s getting the help he needs. Chad, however, can’t seem to hold his tongue any longer.
“He was hitting you, wasn’t he?” he says suddenly. “That’s why you two broke up so abruptly. Why you had that bruise on your eye?” Jared rolls his eyes.
“It was a misunderstanding,” he replies tonelessly. “He found out that I leaked that tape of the drummer doing coke and we argued. I said something nasty and he hit me. He was drunk. He left right afterwards and I haven’t seen him since.”
Chad eyes him for a long time but he seems to believe Jared’s version of events because he shrugs. “I didn’t like him anyway.”
“Believe me, the feeling was mutual,” Jared retorts. He doesn’t mention that technically he and Jensen never broke up, doesn’t mention the messages that Jensen left on his voicemail that give him hope. That’s a revelation for another time.
Jared’s working on a song when he hears a knock on the door. He swears under his breath when a second knock follows the first and drops his pencil on the smudged paper. There’s a bored looking man by the doorway when he gets there, who jerks his hand impatiently at a running car somewhere behind and says,
“There’s some guy with a weird name who wants to know if you’re going to let him in if he comes to your door. For my sake, I hope that your answer is yes because I need my cab back.” Jared looks around the guy and just about make out a figure in the backseat. He nods because he knows that it’s Jensen and he’s not about to turn him away.
“Great.” The cab driver practically skips to his car and after a brief conversation with Jensen, drives away quickly, leaving a worried looking Jensen and silence in his wake.
Jared takes his time making them both coffee, watching Jensen through the kitchen doorway as he stirs the brown liquid vigorously. It’s only when liquid trickles over the side of the mug and onto his hand that he realises that he’s been watching Jensen for longer than is normal. He cleans everything up hastily and makes his way back into the living room. He pauses when he sees Jensen pacing nervously.
“So why are you here?” he asks before setting the mugs down on the coffee table. He sits down on the couch and looks up. Jensen’s got a weird expression on his face and Jared gets the impression that he’s not going to like what he hears.
“I have a couple of things to tell you,” Jensen says. He moves from where he is and sits at the other end of the couch, making sure that his turned towards Jared. Like he’s done a million times before. The stab of familiarity hits Jared hard and he realises that not knowing where they stands means that he hasn’t really mourned the end of their relationship. “I lied to you. About a lot of things. Made you see things that weren’t really true because I wanted something from you.”
Jared frowns angrily. “Now look here, you might think that I’m a ‘whack job’ but I’m not crazy. You can’t make me see things!” Jensen holds out his hand defensively and Jared’s anger subsides slowly.
“I should have phrased that better,” Jensen say. “What I’m trying to tell is that we didn’t meet by accident.”
“...so then he told me that his manager looked me up, tracked me down here and conveniently had his band set up a gig here!” Jared says in disbelief as he places his card down on the table. Jim, the ageing former blues singer that comes to the store every once in a while, shakes his sadly. In truth, Jared knows that the man probably comes here to get away from drama but he needs to talk to someone about the Jensen situation and preferably not with a best friend who’s itching to kick the guy’s ass.
“And it turns out that he was befriending me so I’d help him write some meaningful music. Apparently having me on the credits of his songs would go a long way to helping him get a solo deal. You know, if they’d just come to me right away, I would have said yes.”
“No, kid, you wouldn’t,” Jim says as he finally plays his own card. “You said yourself that you hadn’t written anything for a long time before this guy came along. And like it or not, you did break up his band with that stunt you pulled. Him being a lying toe rag doesn’t change any of that.”
Jared’s hand stills as he takes in Jim’s word. No, it doesn’t.
It takes Jared another two weeks to pull his head out of his ass and decide to find Jensen so they can actually close this messy chapter once for all. Or at least fix things. He doesn’t know but he’s tired of obsessing over it. Sure, Jensen did lie to him and try to trick Jared into believing certain things but there’s no real feeling of vengeance when Jared’s already taken his career away from him. And while he knows that Jensen’s most likely going to get picked up by another record company, he knows just how hard it is to get one at all and for that he’s truly sorry. Hurting someone to stop them from hurting him was messed up and he gets that now.
Jensen’s staying at a hotel in the city and he’s at the bar when Jared steps in. Jared spots the familiar arch of his back, recognizes the shirt was one of his that went missing after Jensen packed up his things and left. He stares for a while until Jensen eventually turn around and beckons him over.
“What’s this?” Jensen says, pointing at the folder in Jared’s hand.
Jared clears his throat just to give himself a minute before he answers. “Songs. A good friend of mine helped me realise that we both fucked up and that it would be wrong of me to pass blame. So I wanted to give you all the songs we worked on. You’ve earned them.”
“No, I haven’t,” Jensen says slowly, around an audible swallow. “And I didn’t ask you here for songs or anything music related. I want to put things right with us.” The pressure in Jared’s chest rises and he knows without a doubt that he’s not ready for this - the conversation, the feeling, endless thoughts of doubt. He’s not ready to deal with it all and he’s not about to give Jensen false hope.
“Things are right with us,” he says when he catches Jensen looking at him imploringly. Before things got all screwed up, he and Jensen were good. Jensen found him interesting and vice versa and they understood each other, despite all the lies and subterfuge. And nothing’s going to take that away from them, that Jared knows for sure. However if there’s one thing he’s taking from this situation is that sometimes people have to sit back and let life happen. “I don’t have any hard feelings.” It’s not what Jensen wants to hear and he watches helplessly as Jensen’s face crumbles. His eyes remain sharp and clear though and Jared wonders if any of it was true. The drinking, the not drinking.
“You look like you want to say something else?” Jensen says, in lieu of responding to what Jared said. “Say it.” There’s a distinct lack of confrontation in his tone, but Jared feels it all the same.
“After the band split, you got really...tense and while it’s understandable, I guess I didn’t really get it. When we discussed the band, it was always like this huge weight on your shoulders and I just - I really thought I was helping. Then I find out that the band was just a stepping stone for you anyway and I have no idea why you got so volatile after the split.” It’s something that’s been troubling Jared since they first spoke. Sure, Jensen claimed that it wasn’t an act but...if it was real then…
“I’m not a heavy drinker,” Jensen replies slowly. “I really did just fake all the staged drinking and partying for band purposes. And once the band spiralled out of control, you started acting strange and I had no idea why. By the time I found out, I was angry. The label had dropped me, as you know and it felt like I had nothing and I was just so sick of pretending that I turned to alcohol and just, everything got out of control.”
“I’m sorry,” Jared says, because he doesn’t know what else he can say.
Jensen shrug sluggishly, as if he’s putting too much effort into the simple gesture. “I think that love can cloud our judgement and...You were trying to help, and...You did help. Kind of. All of us. Guy’s sorting himself out and the rest of us are free to be the kind of artists we want to be, not jaded assholes like we would have been years down the line.”
“But what about your record deal?” Jared asks with a frown.
“Screw that,” Jensen retorts. “They signed me with the explicit intent of screwing over the rest of the band-members when it came down to it and...I don’t want to be around that kind of thing. Even if it means that I’ll be singing in dive bars until I’m seventy, I’m not going to sacrifice my morals again.”
He probably will, but Jared doesn’t say that out loud. The fact that he’s willing to try to things right is enough.
“So?” Jared snaps out of his mini-reverie, and back to Jensen who’s waiting with an expectant look on his face.
“I asked where this left us,” Jensen says. “I would really like it if we could start again. Just lay all of our cards on the table and figure out how to be together. Is that something you’d, uh, be interested in?”
Jared looks at him for a long time as he processes the question. The clinking of glasses sounds in the distance and he wonders if Jensen thought about the irony of having them meet up in a bar of all places.
“Maybe,” he says eventually. And then, “Not now.” Jensen is clearly confused but his eyes are illuminated with hope and Jared knows that this isn’t going to end today; that Jensen’s not going to give up.
“When?” Jensen says simply. Jared places the folder on the bar top as he stands.
“When the time is right.”
“What am I supposed to do until then?”
Jared smiles despite the gravity of the situation. He taps the folder twice. “Maybe you should write a song about it.” Jensen smiles back at him, even though he’ shaking his head a little. It leaves Jared breathless and hesitant at the same time because as much as he wants to take the words back, he knows that they both need breathing space.
They part ways once again but this time, there’s a ray of hope around them.
Jared’s at Blaze, as usual with Chad and the rest of his friends. It’s the first time that Chad hasn’t hassled him relentlessly about his medication and Jensen, so he’s feeling good. He’s scribbling ideas down in the notebook while the others argue about some movie or something; he’s not been paying them any attention for a while. Not when he’s in a writing mood. It’s not even a proper song yet, just random lines, phantom verses, feelings sneaking their way onto the page fast than he can process them but there’s always time for that later. He pauses mid-word and thinks about Jensen’s smile. A month ago he would have rued himself for using Jensen as his inspiration but he’s given in now, accepts that this is what happens when you love someone. The only thing he’s been unable to do is pick up the phone and say ‘the time is right’ because he doesn’t know if it is. That in turn, is because he doesn’t know how Jensen is doing, and that’s his fault for being so coy back when he handed over the songs. He goes back to his song with a heavy sigh, frowning when he sees that he’s strayed between the blue lines again. Sometimes he feels as if it’s metaphor for his life.
Music starts playing in the background and although it sounds familiar, he ignores it in favour of trying to figure out the next line. He chews at the end of his pencil and writes I can’t seem to walk away before crossing it out. Deciding to take a break he tunes back into what’s happening in the bar. The lyrics of the song being performed filter into his mind unbidden and he realises that he knows that voice. He knows this song. The twang of the guitar strings is warm and familiar and his eyes widen in surprise as the words really sink in.
“Love hurts...but sometimes it's a good hurt and it feels like I'm alive.”
“It figures that it’d take lover boy to get you to look up from that book of yours,” Chad says. He sounds annoyed but there’s a fond look in his eye. Jared rolls his eyes at his friend and turns to watch as Jensen stands up on stage singing one of his favourite songs. A song that, when he thinks about, fits them.
“Love sings, when it transcends the bad things. Have a heart and try me,’ cause without love I won't survive...”
Jared’s friends give up on trying to talk to him as the song comes to an end. All that he can focus is on is the fact that Jensen’s on his way over here. His heart pounds in his chest as someone - probably Chad - pats him on the shoulder before the sound of retreating footsteps hit him and all he can see are iridescent green eyes, forever illuminated by hope.
“What happened to writing your own song?” he asks in a tone that completely belies how he feels on the inside.
Jensen grins at him brightly. “It turns out that I need a writing partner if I’m ever going to come up with something that doesn’t suck. There was a guy who I thought might be able to help me out but…”
“It wasn’t the right time,” Jared fills in. He can’t help reaching out to grab Jensen’s hand. It’s warm and sweaty but it fits his just right and Jared knows. He feels a burst of elation and he decides to take another leap because life’s just that. A series of never ending leaps and he doesn’t want to slip into a crack and get trapped. He wants to be happy. He looks Jensen in the eye and continues, “But it is now. And he’s ready.”
This time when they part ways they leave a trail of love in their wake. Outside, the sky is dark but the stars are still there, where they’ve always been - shining bright.