Jensen grinds a cigarette butt under the heel of his boot, closes his eyes against the warmth of a sudden breeze against his face and breathes in the dry air. The setting sun reddens the hills and reflects light off the white clouds on the horizon so the sky is filled with a disorientating brightness. For a suspended moment it could almost be the beginning of the day, not the end, except for those deepening shadows in the folds of the hills that signal the coming darkness. The air is still heavy with heat.
Sunset in West Texas.
He takes a final long look at the landscape—a snapshot—before getting back into his rental car. Not that he needs another reminder. He carries that picture of Home in his head with him, has done for the year he has been away, exiled from everything familiar and well-loved and painful.
A long-hauler speeds past the rest stop. The rental shudders in response. Jensen sighs, turns the key in the ignition and switches on the headlights as the last of the sunset light wanes. Time to go home.
A troop of dogs greets him as he pulls up in front of the low, sprawling house surrounded by oak trees. The house is too big for his dad on his own now, but he’ll never leave. His roots here are too deep. Some people never get that longing to see what’s over the horizon.
A mangy old border collie called Rufus jumps up against him, excitedly wagging his tail. It’s nice to be remembered. Jensen rubs his ears and speaks softly to him.
His dad appears in the doorway. “There you are,” he says. He’s a shadowy silhouette framed by light from the room behind him. The bulb for the porch light must have blown. It’s dark out here. The tall, stooped figure is familiar, the voice is too, but Jensen can’t make out details, can’t tell if his dad has been altered by time or the disease that has won the battle of occupation for his body.
“Yeah, it’s me. It’s Jensen.”
There’s a snort. “I know who you are, Jensen. Come inside. I made soup.”
Jensen might as well have left yesterday, not a year ago. A year in which he has tried to reinvent himself. No longer Jensen the small town boy, but Jensen the almost successful actor.
He follows his dad into the house, drops his bag at the bottom of the stairs and makes his way to the kitchen. It was always the center of the house. He pauses before sitting down in his usual seat at the table and waits for the bowl of steaming hot soup.
Cooking up a pot of soup was always his dad’s Friday night ritual. The rich fragrance would dominate the house, in the way that everything he ever did dominated the environment he was in. Jensen’s mom was the better, more regular cook, but if he had to choose a meal that reminded him most of being a kid, it would be this.
His dad sits across from him. He has aged. His face is gaunt, eyes sunken into their sockets, bleary, tired, lacking the sharp intelligence and mocking humor Jensen remembers. “You look tired.” He tries for a careful, inoffensive tone.
“So do you. Why don’t you get on an airplane like a regular person, instead of driving halfway across the damn country?”
So he hasn’t lost his sharp tongue.
“You know I don’t like flying.”
No mocking rejoinder about it having nothing to do with liking and everything to do with irrational fear, but the smile and nod still imply criticism, a pointed reference to his absence. As if a fear of flying was a reason for staying away.
The soup is as good as he remembers. Jensen eats in silence, aware of his dad’s heavy gaze.
“I am tired. I’m sick and I’m old and I’m tired. We need to talk about my will and about what’s going to happen to the dogs and the house.”
Jensen pushes away the empty bowl and scrapes back his chair. “Not tonight, we don’t. Jesus, I just got here. This can wait until morning. Unless you’re planning on skipping out tonight.”
His dad’s lips tighten. “You always had a sharp tongue, Jensen.”
“Only with you,” he replies bitterly, regretting the tone instantly, angry with himself already for it going this way when he’d promised that it wouldn’t. He stands up. “I’m going outside.”
The sky is a low ceiling of dark velvet studded with stars, close enough to reach up and touch it. He shakes a cigarette out of the pack and lights up. He isn’t a heavy smoker, doesn’t have more than a couple a day and has been thinking of giving them up completely anyway, but the pack is already half empty and he only bought it this morning.
He sits down on the old rocker that used to be his mom’s favorite chair on the porch and absently rubs Rufus’ head, smiles at the way the dog rests his chin on his thigh, looking quizzically up at him from under twitching eyebrows.
His dad comes out, the wooden floorboards creaking under his weight—there’s something ridiculously familiar about that particular sound—and hands him a beer. Jensen takes it and drinks half of it in one long, thirsty swallow. It’s cold and bitter, makes his gut cramp briefly. He exhales and hears his dad do the same after he takes a swallow of his own beer. Rufus abandons his side for his dad’s.
They sit and listen to the other dogs barking at shadows in the yard, the sound of the cicadas, a long-hauler on the freeway in the dark distance.
They have another beer and talk a little. Neutral questions and answers about Jensen’s TV show and his recent role in a stage play, the work that needs doing on the roof of the house and his dad’s regular poker game.
They start on a third beer and his dad tells him a story about how Art Frederickson nearly shot Hank Johnson one night after they drank too much whiskey and there was a heated argument over cheating at cards and some long forgotten slight that dated back to high school. Art got his shotgun from his truck and threatened to kill Hank.
Jensen smiles in the darkness when his dad describes the ensuing scuffle and how the next day they’d all gone fishing together to get over their hangovers.
“Old fools pretending to still have the fire of youth,” his dad scoffs.
As if he wasn’t exactly the same. One time—it must have been a few weeks before Jensen left—his dad and Art got into a brawl with some seasonal ranch workers in the parking lot of Layla’s. Jared was with him in the bar that night so they went out to break it up. Jared’s wrist got fractured when he ducked a punch, slipped, put his hand out to catch himself and landed badly on it.
He was still in plaster the day Jensen left. The cast had looked stark against his tan, made him look vulnerable when he’d held it with his other hand against his body. Everything about Jared that day had been defensive.
“I’m going to bed.”
Jensen looks up at his dad standing next to him. “Okay. Good night.”
His dad opens his mouth as if he wants to say something else, closes it again and shrugs. “C’mon Rufus.” The dog gets up and follows him into house.
Jensen is exhausted. The long drive has taken it out of him and his back is stiff from sitting for so long. He stands and stretches. The chair rocks, steadies and stills. He carries the beer bottles back into the kitchen, turns out the lights, picks up his bag at the foot of the stairs and goes up to his room. Everything is as he left it: the three-quarter bed, his desk, the bookshelf holding his trophies and textbooks from when he was at school. The cactus in a ceramic pot on the windowsill is still alive.
He sits down on the edge of the bed and flexes his shoulders, rubs the back of his neck.
A ghostly hand runs down his spine, illusory, a sense memory, and a voice asks him if his shoulders hurt. It feels so real he turns around and imagines Jared lying against the pillows and looking back at him.
Jared at twelve with a cheeky grin on his face and a comic book in hand, waiting for him to lie down so they can read together.
Jared at sixteen with a different expression, a different invitation.
Jensen shakes his head to dispel the image. He goes to the bathroom and washes his face, brushes his teeth, his eyes on the peeling paint up near the ceiling. The whole house looks old and neglected. It’s depressing and adds to his bone-weariness.
He collapses into bed and sleeps fitfully. The next morning he wakes up feeling groggy and disoriented, remembering fragments of a dream about being in a dark cave with an animal, a mountain lion or a bear, something breathing and menacing, between him and the entrance of the cave.
His dad is on the porch when he goes downstairs. They grunt at each other and together they watch the world wake up over the rims of coffee cups. It’s all very familiar.
“Do you want to get started on the roof?”
“I don’t have the supplies. If I’d known the cavalry was coming, I’d have been better prepared.”
Jensen grits his teeth, biting back a retort. “I’ll go into town and get what we need.”
“Don’t go anywhere near that mall on the edge of town. It’s full of cheap, breakable shit. Get it on the account at Frederickson’s.”
Jensen can’t work up the energy to do the conversation about poor modern workmanship.
“Take the pickup. And make sure you put everything on the account. I don’t want you paying for it.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he replies wryly as he catches the set of keys his dad throws at him.
The truck is ancient and temperamental, responsive to some secret sequence of actions only his dad knows. Conspiring to prove his incompetence, it won’t start at first, and when it finally does, the gears grind loudly and it lurches forward when he gently presses the gas pedal.
He can see his dad shaking his head mockingly in the rearview mirror.
“Piece of shit,” Jensen hisses.
The pickup farts out a black exhaust cloud in reply.
But he can’t hold onto his bad mood when he hits the road into town. It’s too beautiful a day. The wind through the open window clears his head and the sun’s heat on his arm resting on the windowsill fills him with simple happiness. It’s been a long time since he felt like this.
Art’s wife is behind the counter at the store. She grills him about life in the city and what it’s like to be on the TV, wants to know when he’s going to get married and start a family, gives him some free advice about hard, city women who are only interested in their careers and getting their photograph in the magazines.
Jensen half listens and nods politely in the right places.
A group of teenage girls clusters together outside, watching through the store window, giggling and whispering behind their hands. When he comes out, they idly follow him to where he’s parked the pickup. It takes him a while because he has to stop and make small talk with a number of people on the street.
Despite his dad’s injunction, or because of it, he stops off at the mall and buys a case of beer and some food. The fridge had looked pretty empty. Anything he buys will be met with criticism so he purposefully chooses things from a deli that will really irritate his dad: olives, imported cheese, hummus, some jars chosen purely for their exoticism.
His dad surprises him when he stifles a smile as he unpacks the grocery bag and then shoves everything wordlessly into the back of the fridge.
They work on the roof in the afternoon, a country music station on the radio in the kitchen, the sun beating down on them as they fall easily into a familiar routine. They always worked well together. Anything that didn’t require the minefield of conversation and the necessity of pretending they understood each other.
The back and armpits of Jensen’s t-shirt are soaked by the time they finish for the day. A beer tastes especially good afterwards.
He goes upstairs and takes a shower, empties the contents of his bag on the bed and considers what to wear.
He told himself he wasn’t going to do this, but here he is, and it isn’t as if he actually believed the promises he’d made. He’s going to Layla’s. Jared will be there. Jared won’t be surprised to see him because somebody will have told him that they saw Jensen in town today. He’ll be waiting for him.
Jensen takes a deep breath and tries to stifle the feeling of a fluttering bird trapped in his chest.
His dad looks him over when he goes back downstairs, clenches his jaw and turns back to the television without a word.
“I won’t be long.”
“You’re a grown man, Jensen. Do whatever you like,” his dad says to the television.
He repeats that in his head like a mantra the whole way to Layla’s. He is a grown man and he doesn’t need anybody’s permission. He’s an adult in control of his behavior and emotions. And he isn’t the same person who left a year ago.
It’s Saturday night so the parking lot of Layla’s is packed but the rental is small enough for him to squeeze it into a small space between two battered, mud-streaked pickups.
Inside, it’s noisy and sweaty. A few people slap him on the back and call out to him. Jensen smiles, nods, exchanges a few barely heard words over the blaring rock music and continues making a beeline for the bar. He orders a beer and turns to scan the room, spots what he’s looking for and grips the bottle so tightly he almost snaps it off at the neck.
Jared is on the dance floor, talking and laughing with everyone around him. Always a showoff, always the centre of attention.
Everything about him is so familiar but changed in subtle ways. He’s heavy with muscle, features more planed, cheekbones framed by sideburns and longish hair, much longer than Jensen has ever seen him wear it before. He flicks it back and grins down at the girl he’s dancing with. Another girl behind him smacks him on the ass. He reaches for her and pulls her in, wraps his other arm around the first girl and the three of them sway together, laughing and teasing. He twirls one girl, then the other. Somebody whoops at them and Jared looks across, catches Jensen’s gaze and just stops, his face losing color and slackening into an expression which makes him look years older.
He didn’t know, Jensen realizes. The shock on Jared’s face gives him a moment of perverse satisfaction, even as the hurt look which follows it starts up the struggling of the trapped bird inside his ribcage again.
The girls turn to see what caused Jared’s reaction. One puts a supportive hand on his shoulder and stretches up to whisper in his ear. The other just looks bewildered. Jared shakes his head, plasters a grin on his face and pats the girl talking to him reassuringly on the back. He looks at Jensen again, bites his bottom lip and takes a deep breath, probably doesn’t realize how obvious it is that he’s steeling himself.
This is not quite how Jensen had imagined this, and he’s played it through many possible permutations in his imagination.
Jared’s expression hardens and he strides across the dance floor, glances at the short flight of steps up to the bar packed with bodies and then just vaults over the banister between the lower and upper level, a shortcut through the crowd to get him to Jensen quicker. He’s breathing hard when he steps up to him, maybe from the exertion of his gymnastic display, maybe from dancing. Maybe it’s something else.
“Jensen.” His tone changes halfway through Jensen’s name, starts on accusation, breaks midway and ends on something that might be hurt.
What else is he supposed to say?
“What are you—? Oh, is it your dad? What happened?”
“No, it’s not that—I mean, he’s okay. I got called home for final instructions so I’m just here to sort everything out. I guess you heard he’s got cancer. It’s in his liver, in his spine, pretty much everywhere and he doesn’t have long.”
“Yeah, I heard.”
Jensen waits for the condolences, some expression of sympathy. Instead, Jared just looks angry, his jaw clenched tight, eyes hostile. He licks dry lips and glances down at Jensen’s beer on the bar, picks it up and drains it, eyes on Jensen as he does it and his throat working.
Jensen blinks in surprise at the antagonism of the gesture. “Help yourself.”
“I will.” Jared wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and leans forward. “Is it even fucking possible?”
“That you got even prettier.”
Jensen’s face floods with heat. Jared’s expression softens. “You still do that?”
“Blush like that.”
Jared flashes a full smile this time. “Thought you would have gotten better at controlling it, you being an actor and everything, being watched and admired all the time.”
“I’m not admired all the time.” He wishes Jared would stop staring at him so closely. He’s starting to feel like a specimen under a microscope.
“Oh, yes, you are, Jensen.” Changing course, he says, “Buy me a beer.”
“I think you owe me a beer after drinking mine.”
“I don’t have my wallet with me.”
“I’ve heard that line before.”
Jared’s expression darkens. “Not from me.”
“No, that’s true. You never gave a shit about money, always spread it around when you had it. Are you still broke?”
“Yes. Are you still such a tight-ass?”
Jensen blushes again, grumbles under his breath as he turns to the bar and orders them a couple of beers and two shots of whiskey. He hears Jared huff a laugh.
They swallow the shots and then study each other, leisurely scanning for physical changes, cataloguing everything that is still so familiar. Their silent scrutiny must look strange to anybody watching.
“How are things between you and your dad?”
“You really asking, or are we still doing this thing?” Jensen gestures to suggest the tension and one-upmanship between them.
Jared’ s expression is serious. “I’m really asking.”
Jensen relaxes a little. This is familiar terrain for them. “Same as it always was, but it’s not like I thought we were going to play out some kind of deathbed reconciliation scene. ”
“No, real life sucks like that. But hey, at least you got to pretend in that terrible soap you were briefly in.”
Jensen grins, surprised. “I rocked that scene. There wasn’t a dry eye on set afterwards.”
“It was very moving,” Jared agrees. “The way you played it with just enough controlled anger underneath all the regret and compromise was very convincing. Method acting, right?”
Jensen snorts. “You a fan of the show?”
“Of course not. You know how much I hate soaps. It was on in the background somewhere. I wasn’t even really watching.”
Jared smiles but there are so many other emotions lurking behind his words that Jensen doesn’t return it. “I’m sorry to hear that things didn’t work out between you and… uh… her.” Jensen can’t bring himself to name the girl they went to high school with, the one Jared started seeing just before he left. It’s easier to hate some dehumanized concept of a person, a symbol, and it makes him feel like less of an asshole when he fantasizes about her being run over by a bus.
“I know. You said so.”
“I was drunk.”
Jared half smiles. His voice is low and quiet. “Yeah, Jensen, I know that.”
“I shouldn’t have called you when I was like that. I shouldn’t have said the things I said.”
Jared raises his eyebrows, the half smile turning derisive. “Which things? That you were missing me, that you still love me? Or that your life is easier without me in it? Which of those things should you not have said?”
Jared’s bluntness shouldn’t be such a surprise. Jensen drains his beer. He should have known coming here was a mistake. “I’m not doing this with you right now, Jared. Especially not here. I’m going. Maybe we can talk tomorrow.”
He doesn’t wait for a response, turns and fights his way through the crowd. So much for being a grown man.
The temperature has dropped outside and the air is almost cool against his heated face. It’s a relief to be out of the heat and noise of the bar.
“You are such a fucking coward!”
He should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy. He turns around and watches Jared coming towards him, balances his weight, just in case.
“You are always walking away.” Jared punctuates each word by sharply poking him in the chest.
Jensen swats aside his hand and steps a couple of paces backwards. “I walked away once, Jared. That’s not exactly a pattern of behavior.”
Jared closes the distance between them again, his breath warm on Jensen’s face: the smell of beer and something sweeter underlying it. “Bullshit. In your head you were always leaving, so it’s the same thing, and you talked about it often enough.”
Jensen folds his arms across his chest. “That wasn’t about you or about us. I just wanted to get out of here. Anyway, you were already seeing—”
“Not true,” Jared cuts in. “It was about us. It was about your dad finding out about us. It was about your mom’s disappointment. It was about your constant, screwed-up guilt, and the way you used to push me away all the time.”
Irritation starts to bubble up inside Jensen. “You don’t understand what it was like for me because everything is so easy for you. You’re so…” He struggles for the right word. “You’re so fucking cheerful all the time. Your problem, Jared, is you’re not serious enough.”
Those are not the words he was looking for, they don’t even come close to approximating the oblivious, blissful way Jared just bounds his way through life, the way Jensen always felt like he had to carry everything that was difficult and complicated on his own.
Jared has his hand clenched around Jensen’s bicep. Jensen tries to shrug him off, grinds out, “And get your big paws off me.” Jared always used to do that: physically hold onto him when he thought he had some serious point to make.
Jared just tightens his fingers. His mouth hangs open. “Cheerful?” he eventually sputters. “You’re criticizing me for being too cheerful?”
“No, that’s not what I meant.” Jensen drops his voice to a low growl as he tries to prize Jared’s hand off his arm. “Let me go. I’m not asking you again, Jared.”
Jared goes still. He raises his eyebrows and smirks, his lip curling with humor and combat. “You’re not asking me again?” he whispers. “What exactly are you going to do then, Jensen?”
Jared’s fingers are tourniquet tight. The blood-flow has stopped to Jensen’s arm and his hand is starting to feel cold and numb. He clenches it into a fist.
Jared seems to take that as some sort of reply. He moves closer and lowers his head, meets Jensen’s gaze. “Go on. Do it.”
Jensen glances at Jared’s mouth, confused by his proximity, can’t at first work out what he means, gets lost in memories of kissing him. That first time when they were so young and it was such a new and perfect thing. The last time, when Jared had probably known it was the last time and Jensen hadn’t.
Jared’s breath hitches and Jensen looks up, reads his intention, twists his face away and wrenches his arm out of Jared’s grasp. He steps backwards. “I’m not—I’m not doing that. I’m not going to hit you, Jared. I’m not doing this redneck bullshit of fighting in the parking lot of Layla’s on a Saturday night.”
“That’s not what you were thinking about doing,” Jared says quietly.
All Jensen’s tiredness washes back. He doesn’t have the defenses to deal with this right now. “Oh, I was thinking about hitting you, Jared. I really was. But I’m too tired to do it tonight. Come round to the house tomorrow and I’ll kick your ass in the yard. The way I did when we were in the tenth grade after you lied to me about kissing that girl behind the gym.” He turns around, forgets for a second where he parked the rental car before recognizing it just ahead of him.
He unlocks the car and hears Jared say behind him, “I never kissed her. She kissed me. I was just too chicken shit to do anything but let her do it.”
Jensen faces him, leaning back against the car. “You still lied about it, but it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Jared steps closer, crowding Jensen closer against the car. “Doesn’t it?” His voice has dropped low, the tone intimate and suggestive.
Jensen feels overwhelmed by Jared’s physical presence. His brain is sending him all sorts of conflicting signals: push him away; pull him closer; move away; lean in closer.
Jared’s licks his lips and bites the lower one, a sign of uncertainty, as he reaches up and fits his hand into Jensen’s nape, starts gently rubbing the tense muscle, softly asks, “You still carry all this tension in your neck when you’re stressed?”
Jensen jerks back and stiffens, but doesn’t pull away like he should. Without even meaning to, he sighs and closes his eyes, leaning the weight of his head back into Jared’s palm, familiarity and old habits working against him. He’s aware of Jared moving closer, knows he should open his eyes, but he’s so tired. His breath catches when he feels Jared’s lips on his neck, warm and firm, looking for his pulse, finding it, the heat of his tongue sliding against Jensen’s skin.
Jensen opens his eyes. The sky is big and unknown above him. The pinprick stars and crescent moon look impossibly far away. “I wish you wouldn’t do this to me.” He’s only partly talking to Jared. In Jensen’s opinion, the entire fucking universe conspires against him whenever he’s around Jared. This was not supposed to happen.
Or maybe he’s just lying to himself and this is exactly what he knew would happen.
Jared makes a muffled sound near his ear. Goose-bumps spread their way down Jensen’s body, sensitizing his skin, his nipples pebble and chafe against his t-shirt. Jared bites the lobe of his ear, his breath ragged, his thigh slipping between Jensen’s. He kisses along Jensen’s jaw-line, wraps both hands around the back of his head and looks at him, eyes bright and skin flushed, before leaning in and kissing him.
It’s impossibly perfect, like the first time, and somehow really sad, like the last time. There’s an ache in Jensen’s chest that distracts him from the ache between his legs. He’s about to break the kiss when Jared groans and presses his tongue deeper into Jensen’s mouth, pulls him forward so he can cup Jensen’s ass in both hands, half pulling him up onto his thigh.
It tips things over, unbalances the tension between wanting and resisting. Jensen just gives in and sinks into the heat and strength of Jared’s body. He can feel Jared’s hand fumbling with the button and zipper of his jeans, knows he should stop it, but he’s so distracted by Jared’s mouth and the hot slide of his tongue that he can’t even think straight.
Jared rests his forehead against Jensen’s and breathes heavily against his mouth. “Thought I was dreaming when I saw you earlier.” He manages to unzip Jensen’s jeans, hesitates before stroking him through his briefs. Jensen curses and grips Jared’s biceps harder, holding on.
“I was coming to see you,” Jared whispers, his hand still stroking, making it difficult for Jensen to concentrate on what he’s saying. “I just needed to finalize some things here first. After you called me—the things you said—”
Resigned now to the inevitability of this and desperate for it to happen already, Jensen says, “Just stop talking, Jared.”
He doesn’t allow Jared to respond, shuts him up by sealing their mouths tightly together, tries at the same time to get the back door of the car open, drops the keys on the ground, means to pick them up, logical voice reminding himself of where they fell as he manages to get the door open and pulls Jared into the back seat with him.
They struggle to fit, too tall and too clumsy with over eagerness, knees and elbows in the way. Jared collapses on top of him, his full weight pressing down on Jensen’s body. He bites into the side of Jensen’s neck and it really hurts. He rasps in Jensen’s ear, “You’re so stubborn. You think you know all the answers, but you don’t.”
Jensen groans, doesn’t dispute that, wordlessly acknowledging to himself that he never had any of the answers. He tugs Jared’s t-shirt up to his armpits, unsuccessfully tries to yank it over his head, has to push Jared away so he can try and free it completely. Laughing, Jared sits up and pulls it off, then throws it onto the front seat. That allows Jensen to get at the buckle of his leather belt. He unbuckles it and looks up to see Jared watching him with hooded eyes. For a brief moment he looks like a complete stranger.
Jensen licks his lips nervously. “You’re gonna have to lift up so we can get these off you.”
Jared gives him a heated look before lifting himself and straightening his legs. Between them they manage to get his jeans and boxers down to his ankles. He leans next to Jensen on one elbow, his bicep bulging, grins when Jensen raises an eyebrow at the size of it. Jensen bites into the muscle. Retribution.
“Fuck,” Jared gasps. He grips Jensen’s chin and pushes his head away so he can bite again into the same place on the side of Jensen’s neck, soothes the hurt with his tongue and shushes Jensen when he moans. He tugs the painful skin with his teeth, sucks and bites the same spot, doesn’t seem to realize how rough he’s being, his fingers tight on Jensen’s jaw. His cock is hot and hard against Jensen’s stomach.
Jensen’s breath has shortened into little pants. “That—that hurts,” he manages to get out, hearing how hoarse and strange his own voice sounds. Jared isn’t really hurting him, not physically, or at least he doesn’t think so, but he’s feeling breathless and weird and doesn’t know what he’s saying.
Jared stills instantly, lifts his head and looks down at Jensen, frowning. “Do you want to stop?”
Jensen tries to catch his breath. “No—can’t—but—just sit up a minute, okay?”
Jared sits up, moves as far away as the seat will allow, his back against the door of the car, and watches Jensen warily. Both of them are breathing hard. Jensen rubs the bite marks on his neck and tries to steady his heartbeat, to regain some control.
Jared’s hair is all ruffled and messy, his lips swollen and slick from kissing, his expression cautious, the planes of his face and body patterned with shadow. He’s so gorgeous, forbidden and impossible to resist. Jensen reaches out and runs his hand down Jared’s side, can’t help smiling when he shivers and closes his eyes.
He waits until Jared opens them again before wrapping his hand around Jared’s cock, familiarizes himself with the way Jared feels, his eyes never straying from his face, reading his reactions, so turned on by the way his mouth drops open and his eyelids flutter. Jared’s body tenses and Jensen can see the effort it takes for him to try and relax, to keep his eyes open. His hands are clenched tightly at his sides.
Jared twitches and arches slightly when Jensen rubs his thumb over the head. He swallows hard. “You always liked watching me like this,” he manages, teeth gritted.
“That’s because you’re a control freak.”
Jensen grins. “I just liked watching you lose it. Doesn’t make me a control freak. Also, that’s pretty hypocritical considering the way you were manhandling me a minute ago. When did you start liking it rough?”
“I don’t. It’s only because you drive me nuts. Would you just come here and stop teasing me.” Jared pulls him forward and kisses him hard. Jensen meets the intrusion of his tongue, his hand still wrapped around him, jerks him off harder and faster, the kiss turning messy and uncoordinated as they swallow each other’s panted breaths, until Jared groans and comes in Jensen’s hand, a long shudder racking his body.
It takes Jared a couple of minutes to recover and then he’s pushing Jensen down on the seat and ripping open his jeans, his fingers bruise-hard on Jensen’s hipbones. “Lift up,” he instructs.
“Yeah, okay. Let me just—” Jensen has to contort himself to pull at the laces of his left boot. Jared does the right boot, rips off his sock, but doesn’t give Jensen a chance to take off the other one before he’s got Jensen’s hips up and is pulling off his jeans and briefs.
Jensen’s on his back again, Jared’s mouth on him, so hot and intimate and familiar. He doesn’t last long because Jared knows exactly how to get him off, and he hasn’t forgotten a single trick, all those little things that drive Jensen crazy. He softly squeezes Jensen’s balls, rubs just behind them, his finger teasing at Jensen’s hole as he flutters his tongue and takes Jensen deep into his throat.
When they first started doing this, such a very long time ago, they’d spend hours exploring each other’s bodies, trying out new things on each other, fascinated by giving and receiving physical pleasure. Jared, especially, never had any inhibitions, wanted to try everything. “Do you like that? Does it feel good?” he’d ask. Jensen would normally grunt out some encouraging response, sometimes too drowned in arousal to say the words, sometimes too embarrassed to express them out loud. Jared always knew, though.
“Jared, I’m gonna—” He clutches Jared’s hair, tries to pull him off, but Jared won’t be moved. He sucks harder and pushes his finger all the way into Jensen’s body. It’s a sudden, slightly painful intrusion and it sends Jensen over the edge. He bucks, grips Jared’s hair tightly and comes, obliviously repeating Jared’s name.
When he opens his eyes, Jared is above him, his gaze intent. He leans down and kisses Jensen, his tongue slipping between his lips. The taste and smell of his own release is heavy and salty in Jensen’s mouth and nose—a primitive intimacy.
Jared sits up and smiles warily at him. The immediacy of their desire now satisfied, an atmosphere of self-conscious tension starts to fill the car.
That self-recriminatory voice starts up at the back of Jensen’s mind. He moves away from Jared and rakes a hand through his hair. “So much for resolutions. Jesus, is it always going to be fucking like this?”
A heavy silence hesitates between them before Jared answers in hard voice, “Yeah, Jensen, it will always be like this, unless we stay as far away as possible from each other.”
“I tried that,” Jensen mutters, not hearing the testing note in Jared’s voice, the descent into his own issues too quick to notice it.
“Why do you have to be such an asshole!”
Jensen jerks back at Jared’s harsh vehemence.
“How do you think that makes me feel? When you turn around afterwards and treat me like I’m something… contagious that you can’t help catching but that you don’t consciously want?”
Jared’s skin is flushed, his eyes flashing and nostrils flaring.
Jensen doesn’t respond, taken aback by the suddenness of his fury.
“How do you think that makes me feel, Jensen?”
Jensen wants to apologize—there’s something pretty horrible about still being naked immediately after sex and arguing like this—but he knows that it would be hypocritical because this is not a completely unfamiliar argument. This is what dominated those final months before he left, after his dad walked in on them, after his mom died, before Jared gave up on them and started seeing someone else.
“I’m sorry,” he says anyway.
“You know what? That’s not good enough, Jensen. You were always sorry.” Jared starts roughly putting his clothes back on. “You’re happy enough when your dick is in my mouth but afterwards I’m just a guilt-trip.”
So many unspoken words stuck in his throat, Jensen watches Jared wrench open the door, slam it behind him, rip open the front door of the car and grab his t-shirt.
Jared slams that door so hard everything shakes, then stalks off towards the bar pulling his t-shirt back on.
Jensen sits there for a moment, dazed, wondering what just happened, before banging his head on the back of the headrest of the driver’s seat and driving his fist into the side of it. “Why the hell do I do this to myself!”
As an additional punishment, he can’t find his keys next to the car. In that perverse way inanimate objects have sometimes, they just aren’t where the laws of physics and gravity determine they should be. By the time he finds them hidden on the inside of the front wheel, Jensen is ready to punch or kick something really hard. Only the thought of losing his insurance deposit stops him from damaging the car, which is obviously in collusion with the keys to make him more miserable than he rightfully deserves.
He drives home with his foot flat on the gas pedal, ignoring the glittering ceiling of stars and the long, dark stretch of the hills on the horizon, refusing to notice how beautiful it is, this place that he loves and hates equally.
The dogs bark at him when he gets to the house like he’s an intruder. The light in his dad’s bedroom comes on and he appears in the window for a brief moment before the curtains are flicked closed and the house is plunged back into darkness. He didn’t even leave the downstairs light on.
Jensen finds his way into the house and upstairs, strips off and pads to the bathroom naked. He brushes his teeth and wipes the dried flecks of semen off his stomach and crotch with a wet washcloth. He looks at himself in the bathroom mirror as he does it and thinks about Jared’s mouth on him, the softness of Jared’s hair between his fingers. He starts to harden in response and absently rubs the washcloth over his dick. A separate, more distanced and aware part of himself notices the glazing of his eyes in the mirrored reflection. He hisses in irritation and spits out the toothpaste in his mouth.
It takes him a while to fall asleep, the darkness and silence outside so different to the lullaby of urban traffic and street-lighting he’s become used to over the past year. His final thought is a vague, nagging worry about whether his flaky room-mate paid the rent.