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A Warm Place

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The Texas sun creeps through the open windows of his office, he can feel the heat seeping through the back of his chair, warm and comforting, like much of how Texas has been all his life. But at the moment his mind is swirling with numbers and names, his employers have to be paid tomorrow on Friday and Adrianne sits across from him, writing out checks on his desk as he grows through the list of names on his laptop, calling them out to her and rattling off the numbers owed out to all his hard workers. He loves his business, he loves his employees, they're one big happy family and he really couldn't ask for more from his job. Most people hate doing what they do for a living, he somehow managed to go to go into business management at college with debt hanging over his head and six years later after he graduated, he marketed his grandmother's famous recipes around the family, her potato salad and macaroni salad. They became a big hit and now they're famous all over the country. He's received nothing but rave reviews for his product and people buy it in droves. He knows he's lucky but at the same time he earned his business through headaches and stumbles of fail until he succeeded. Now he's a multi-millionare, can afford anything he wants and bought his parents their own house so they could stop living in the dump they paid mortgage for, for years. He's proud of himself really.

Adrianne finishes the checks and puts them on a neat pile to the side of the coffee mug with pens in it, and sighs. "That's it, boss?"

Jared nods. "That's it." He handles the checks himself personally along with Adrianne, he had someone managing it in the past but they ended up mixing up names, giving wrong amounts and pissed off a lot of his workers in the process. He shuts the laptop and leans back in his cushie red chair as he crosses his ankles underneath the desk and let's his mind blank out from all the numbers running around in his head. "What about the meetings with Aldis, Co-Op and save a lot?"

Adrianne touches her hanging bangs for a second, then her bun on the top. Checking her hair. She often does it. "All scheduled. You have a twelve o clock with Aldis on the fifth, a nine o clock with Save a lot on the ninth and a ten o clock with co-op on the twentieth. They all seemed happy you're willing to do business with them, I even suspect you'll be meeting with the CEOS this time around," she said said with a tired smile.

Jared pouts his lip a little, then grins. "More of that home cooked goodness to go around. He doesn't really need more business, it's managed to become a monster within itself but the other businesses want it and who is he to deny the people what they want? Just means they get to enjoy what he loved as a child when he went to his Grandma's house for Sunday dinners and helped out in the kitchen. The product they mass produce, tastes exactly the same, he made sure of that and he's sure they get the same happiness from it that he did.

Adrianne nods, dropping her hand from her bun and letting her hand fall obviously in her lap. "I'm gonna take my break and get some coffee down the street from Mike's. You want anything?"

Jared contemplates for a moment then shrugs. "Cappucinno, half chocolate, half vanilla and a strawberry cheese danish. I'll pay you for it when you come back."

"Gotcha, boss," she said, as she got up and left the room quietly.

No sooner than the door shut, his cellphone started ringing and he reaches into the pocket of his suit pants to pull it out and look at the caller I.D. He gives a small smile at the screen and hits enter on the phone as he put it to his ear. "Hey Sleepy."

"Whatever, Dopey," Chad's voice sounded through the phone. Jared could see in his mind's eye the eyeroll that his bestfriend gave. His only real friend actually. At least that's what he believed anyway.

"You need anything?," Jared ask, leaning forward on the desk with his elbows as his smile grew wider.

"Just wondering if you're going to that party with me," Chad said, and he could hear the smile in his voice on the other end.

"I really don't want to go, dude. I've got to be at the homeless shelter at nine in the morning. Meaning I need all the sleep I can get," Jared said.

Chad chuckled. "You need to get out more. All work and no play makes Jared a dull boy then next thing you know, you're going through your building and hacking up all your employees with a fucking axe while floods of blood pour from the elevators."

Jared shrugged, even though Chad couldn't see him. "At least I've got a steady paying job, which is much more than I can say for you."

His bestfriend snorted. "Seriously? You jab low, man."

"You jab lower. Only returning the favor," Jared mocked, puckering his lips and making a popping sound.

"Right, okay. Anyway. I want you to meet this chick, Amber. She's really fucking hot, like goddess to be worshipped smoking and I showed her your picture, Told her what a great guy you were and she was totally interested. I'd date her but she's been told by everyone I'm off limits because I"m a douchebag,” Chad rumbles on.

Jared laughs, but tries to keep from laughing too loud. "You are a douchebag, Chad."

"Whatever. I'm saying if I can't hit it, at least you can. Someone has got to lay a bone to her in our group, and that should be you. It would make you a legend if you can get a piece of the action," Chad goes on, proving how much of a douche he really is.

Jared sighed. "Okay, but you know. I don't want to objectify a woman if I can help it. I'm not you, I respect them even when I take them home for the night and do my thing."

"You've told me that a hundred times and I'm cool with it, but you gotta take one for the team," Chad presses.

"Okay, Okay. I will. Promise. That's if she's even interested once she meets me, you know, putting my foot in my mouth," Jared replied, pressing his lips together a little.

"Good. Now I gotta go, going to go grocery shopping with my mom and make home made soup. I'll call you sometime tonight when it's not so hectic around here. Fucking, ow! Just got hit in the head with a basketball by my nephew Ryan. Little shit," Chad muttered the last part, Jared had heard a sudden ping before.

"Give him a noogie for me," Jared said, laughing. "Call me later for sure. I'll probably be bored out off my ass."

"Will do. Later, dude," Chad said.

"Later," Jared replied, hanging up the phone. It was fifteen minutes later that Adrianne came back with his food and drink, and he couldn't help thinking the whole time he was alone: it was really about time he did get himself laid.

--------------------

Jared is regretting coming to this party. It's loud, there are people everywhere and half of them are drunk out of their skulls. Chad is somewhere around here, making a spectacle of himself or doing something much worse like getting into illegal drugs. Something tells him if he doesn't have to bail him out of jail tonight then he'll have to do it in the morning once Chad wakes up somewhere indecent and possibly in some fifteen year old girl's bed. It happened one time, last year, sixteen year old girl but to Chad's credit she looked at least early twenties. He could see the mistake.

He walks away, chatting to people in his friendliest manner. Being introduced to this person and that person, it's kinda boring and hard since the music is so loud but he manages. It's a half hour later when he finally runs into Chad again, who has a lampshade over his head and likely on his tenth beer.

“Jare! Dude. Did you meet Amber yet?,” He asks, pulling up the lampshade and revealing his blue blood shot eyes.

Jared raises his eyebrow and shakes her head. “No, you were supposed to introduce us. Incase you forgot.”

“Oh, right,” Chad slightly slurs, looking down at his bottleneck Budweiser and frowning.

“Yeah, right,” Jared says sarcastically, taking a quick drink of his sneaky peak. He was warned about the alcohol content and that it lives up to it's name but he'll be fine, alcohol never gets to him like it does other people.

“Well, come on. This way! She's like out in the backyard passing a joint around,” Chad tells him as he throws the lampshade somewhere in the vicinity and trouts off toward the back of the room.

Jared follows close behind, avoiding stepping on people who are sitting on the floor. Some looked passed out and it's barely 8:30. He shakes his head a little, smiling, wondering how people can party so hard, so early. He almost loses Chad in the crowd but manages to catch up and follows him outside. Chilly air hits his face and he inhales, no stale beer smell out here. Nothing but freshness and the smell of pot. Which always reminds him of a skunk.

“Keep up, man,” Chad says, looking back as he leads him toward a bonfire with several people standing around.

Even from here, Jared can see their passing around what looks to be blunts. He kinda wants to partake but he gets weed hangovers and he has to be up at seven o'clock in the morning to shop for groceries and take them to the homeless shelter. He has Sandy helping him out, so they can load up his truck and drive straight over to the place, so he needs all the sleep he can get.

Chad falls to the side of a girl with long wavy blonde hair, lit up by the firelight. She laughs as Jared practically falls into her and Jared stops for a moment to witness this.

“Amber! Goddess of wet dreams, turn around and meet Jared, God of many salads,” Chad announces, managing to hold himself up right as his beer sloshes around and spills down the front of his shirt.

Amber turns to peer up at Jared, eyes going a little wide. “God, he's a fucking tree.”

Jared snorts, raising his eyebrows. It's not the first time he's heard that. “Nice to meet you too.”

“A really good looking tree,” She tacks on, grinning and winking at him. “Sit your ass down and get to know me. Chad has mentioned you one or a thousand times and that we'd get on well.”

Jared laughs, liking her attitude already. Kinda reminds him of his mother. Straight forward, no brain to mouth filter. Says what she means, means what she says. He gets down on his knees next to her but she pulls him by his arm and he lands his ass onto the long log she's sharing with Chad. It's a tight squeeze but it works.

“I'll leave you two alone, going to head back into the party and find me a saucy wench to spend my evening with,” Chad says, loud enough for everyone to hear. He stumbles to his feet and walks away, leaving them alone.

Amber scoots over, making more room for Jared's large frame to get comfortable and Jared stares into the fire, sipping from his fruity alcoholic drink. “So uh...,” he starts, feeling awkward and alone now that Chad's gone.

“So uh uh,” Amber mocks, chuckling. “Don't be so afraid. Seriously, I'm a baby tiger. All roar and no bite.”

Jared smiles softly and nods. “Oh? I've always likened myself to a tiger too. Only you know, I'm less of a hunter and more of a lazy cat.”

Amber giggles. “We'll get on great then.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Jared says, nursing his drink.

“So, Jared tells me you're in the food business. Padalecki Grub Co?,” Amber asks, as a blunt is starting to make it's way toward them.

“Yeah, about five years now. Recently I marketed my grandmother's cookie recipes and they're selling pretty well, doing better than I expected them to,” Jared tells her, as he turns his head and notices how deep and blue her eyes are. He feels like he could get lost in them. He feels like he already is. He's always had a thing for eyes.

“Business man. I like that,” Amber says with a nod. “Can I have a drink of that? I'm parched to all hell and I didn't even think to grab myself a beer.”

Jared holds out his drink to her. “Knock yourself out. It's pretty sweet but it's good.”

She smiles, takes it from him and guzzles a long drink. She smacks her lips and sighs. “Hit the spot.”

“What do you do?,” He finally asks, as she hands it back to him and he cradles it in his large paw.

“I... well... Okay, so I'm not exactly a starving artist but I make sculptures for a living. They're not small time, they're actually quite acclaimed. Most of them anyway, but I most ride by on the inheritance from my parents. It'll be gone soon, so I'm hoping my art ends up becoming more sought after and seen as something to pay big bucks for,” She replies in honestly, which makes Jared smile a little more.

“Sounds good. What was your highest bidding piece?,” He asks, scrubbing a hand over his face. He suddenly feels hotter than the fire is making him. He looks down into the cup. Maybe this shit does as it's advertised.

“One of my sculptures called Red Dawn, sold for 30,000. Not bad, right?,” She says with a slight smirk, obviously proud of herself.

“No, not at all,” Jared says, feeling impressed. “I would have liked to have seen what the buyer saw.”

“They raved about it for over twenty minutes until their wife dragged them away but honestly? I think he was trying to get in my pants, old bastard,” She says, shaking her head.

Jared laughs. “I wouldn't blame him. You are pretty much the epitome of beautiful.”

She ducks her head and laughs back. “Flatterer. I bet you say that to get in all the girls pants.”

Jared takes a long drink and shrugs. “I don't know who you are yet but your physical beauty is astounding. I'm sure men would have wrote sonnets and poetry about it in the day.”

She sniggers. “And women would have giggled at you in their small villages and towns and went after you as their prized husband.”

Jared laughs loud. “Yeah, I could see that happening. Sir Padalecki. Would you take me as your wife? Why yes little lady, you have child bearing hips. You would make me some fine children,” He says in different voices, throwing his whole body into the act.

Amber snort-laughs and gasps for breath. “Don't do things like that, I'm high and I'm bound to choke.”

“It wasn't that funny,” Jared murmurs, finishing the drink.

“It was so,” She tells him, leaning her temple against his shoulder and staring up at him.

Jared looks down, smile plastered to his face.

Amber turns her head and leans away from him, coming back a moment later with a blunt in her hand. “Ah, Sir Padalecki. Would you partake of the refer? I could give you a lovely shotgun to jump-start your most rolling high.”

“Why Miss Amber. Are you asking me to do illegal drugs?,” Jared says, mock shocked.

“It's only illegal if you let the lawmen know. And even then they'll do no such thing about it, Sir. They'll just take it and smoke it themselves,” Amber says with a very serious face.

Jared laughs. “I'll take a shotgun and a couple hits. Don't smoke all that often, so that should be all I need.”

She smiles at him lazily and places the cherry end in her mouth, moving forward as her hands cup around his mouth. Their eyes connect and he feels kinda odd, it's been a long time since he's had a shotgun, feels like an eternity but there's nothing romantic about their eyes on each other. It's a little weird and awkward, bordering on creepy but she blows out the smoke and he inhales all that she gives, coughing before he catches himself and manages to breathe.

“If that don't get you high, I'll give up my right buttcheek to science,” Amber says as she takes a long drag, then exhales.

“I haven't seen your ass but wait to make that decision until I've seen it because if I like it, I want you to keep it,” Jared says as he watches her take another hit and then pass it on over.

Amber smirks, eyebrow raised and waggling. “The way we're going? You'll see it tonight in all it's glory. A man that can make me laugh? You're in the bag.”

Jared takes a hit and inhales sharply, his mouth feels like cotton but he takes a second hit and then releases. He feels the affects already, his body feels like it's on a rollercoaster and he's tingling all over. His brain seems to slant like it's been in a earthquake and he tries to keep his eyes balanced from falling all over themselves. “If I had known being a complete and utter dork would get me in girls' pants, I would have let myself be an idiot a long time ago.”

“Girls want idiots, Jared. They just have to be funny,” Amber says with a nod of her head. “Pass the doobie to the left. It'll come back or something will.”
Jared licks his lips, swallowing and smacking his mouth a few times. His mouth feels drier than hell and he looks at her seriously. “I need more sneaky peak or else my entire body is going to dry up like Spongebob.”

“Then let us go in the house, get some drinks and find a bedroom to get better acquainted,” Amber says with a sly grin.

“Let us see if you are the true Goddess,” Jared says as he gets up off the log and stands, steadying himself.

“Oh, I am,” Amber claims, getting up and linking her arm with Jared's.

“Ah huh, you'll need to prove it,” Jared says, wagging his finger in her face as they make their way to the house.

She snickers, leaning up to kiss him on the cheek which surprises Jared, but it warms him a little inside.

Jared gets his sneaky peak, they spend time drinking them down fast and he feels the affects easily. His entire body feels like it's been heated In a microwave but it's still a good feeling. It doesn't take long before he's sloshed drunk and makes his way upstairs with her, tripping over their feet and laughing the whole way. They find a room which that is empty and they fall into bed, Amber giggling and Jared giddy as hell. It's been awhile since he's had chemistry with someone and at least three months long since he's had sex. And the sex? Surprisingly good, they work together, bodies thrumming with desire. He makes sure she gets off first and then he follows after, splashing into a condom she had in her pocket. He falls asleep with her wrapped in his arms and her head cradled against his shoulder. It's a pretty good night.

--------------------

It's five in the morning when he wakes up, headache pulsing through his brain. Amber is still knocked out beside him on the bed, he shakes her awake, and she opens her eyes, blinking owlishly at him.

“Oh god, what time is it?,” She grouses, sitting up as she shakes in a shiver.

Jared looks at his cellphone. “5:09. We passed out like a couple of logs.”

She nods, smiling as she stretches. “You wore me out, Padalecki but I gotta head home, there's a sculpture with my name on it and it needs finished.”

“Same here. I need to be at the food pantry in a couple hours. Exchange numbers?,” Jared asks tentatively, not sure if it's just a one night stand or something more. He feels it, he wonders if she feels it and he hopes she does.

She grins at him. “You bet your bottom dollar, cowboy. Gimmie your phone,” She says, making grabby hands at it and he hands it over.

She programs her number into his phone, but takes a moment longer than necessary as she hums a tune to herself. It sounds like a Florence and the Machine song, Rabbit Heart. Something they have in common.

“You aren't going through my music are you?,” Jared hedges, raising his eyebrow at her.

She smiles, looking up, slightly mischievous. “I was but now I'm going through your text messages.”

“Whoa, hey! Not cool,” Jared says reaching for his phone.

She holds it up high even though that wouldn't stop Jared at all. His arms are longer. “I'm kidding. Just going through your music. Honest.” She flips the phone over to show him the screen with his list of songs. He feels a rush of relief flow through him. Some of those texts are important and private. She stops playing with his phone, putting it in her lap as she reaches behind her and picks up her phone. “Gimmie your number, stud.”

Jared complies and types his number into her phone. He makes sure to capitalize his name.

“Okay, now we're exchanged. I gotta go. Need a shower and gotta meet my friend at six thirty to go to the grocery store,” Jared says as he starts to get up.

She stops him, grabbing him by the shoulders and leaning up to kiss him soundly on the lips. She pulls back with a smile. “Now you can go but next time you better remember my goodbye kiss.”

“There'll be a next time?,” He asks, smirking.

“Oh yes,” she says, waggling her eyebrows.

“Awesome,” Jared says as he searches the room for his clothes, pulling on his boxers, jeans and finally his shirt. He pats his jean pockets for his keys, relieved to find them intact and his phone is slipped into the opposite pocket. “I'll text you later or call. Promise.”

“You better,” She calls after him as he leaves the room.

An hour later, he's showered, in fresh clothes and drinking a travel mug of flavored coffee. Five sugars, two spoonfuls of vanilla creamer. The way he likes it. He picks up Sandy and they drive in silence, as she's never been a morning person and he knows she's struggling to stay awake at this point but he's her lifeline and without her this would take twice as long to do. Though she admitted she liked doing it, having something good on her conscious that makes her a better person. Feeding the homeless and giving food away to people in need.

They shop for over an hour and a half, getting twenty of the same item over and over again. They have five buggies full and Jared alternates pulling three at a time, which takes over twenty minutes to get to the truck and start piling groceries into the back. It looks ridiculous to have that much food, people might think they're together and have ten kids to feed, which one day he wants that kinda life and now he's yearning for a house full of kids, with someone he loves and he thinks of Amber for a second. Not because he has strong feelings for her, but because he never knows, she might be the one. Though they haven't discussed serious subjects yet.

Pulling into the parking lot, Jared shuts the car off and runs into Family Pride to snag a few guys to help. Outside there are people waiting for it to officially open, sitting against the wall of the building and standing around, smoking. He knows the regulars, so he waves and gets a few hellos and what's ups. He goes inside,looks around, it's mainly empty at the moment. No one starts coming in until around ten o'clock, but he can see Evan and Josh playing cards at one of the lunch tables.

Jogging over to them, he stops and looks down. They're playing rummy, he'd join if he didn't have to get things prepared.

Evan looks up and smiles. “Jared, my main squeeze. You got the goods?”

“That I do. You coming to help Sands and I carry it in?,” Jared asks, knowing they'll both do it. They always do.

“Yeah, sure thing. I'll go grab Tavin as well. Go help, Josh,” Evan tells his partner in crime as he gets up and disappears into the kitchens in the back.

“Did you get a bunch of stuff like last time?,” Josh half complains as he puts down his cards and follows Jared out of the building.

“Need to get enough to feed an army,” Jared says as he walks over to Sandy, who has at least ten bucks in her hands.

“Just so much, dude,” Josh says as he starts grabbing bags.

Sandy doesn't say anything, she disappears into the building and comes out moments later to grab more. Soon Tavin and Evan are out there, grabbing everything they can and they're finished in fifteen minutes. Jared's hands hurt from having heavy bags hanging off his fingers but it's worth it to see the happy faces of people who need food to feed their children and family members.

Jared, Sandy and Josh start taking food out of bags at the long tables and shelves deigned for the food supplies. It's a team effort and Lucy comes out with a bright smile as she starts helping.

“Thank you, Jared. You too Sandy,” She says as she goes through boxes and piles all the junk food on one table and underneath it.

“It's nothing but you're welcome,” Jared answers, getting meat products on another table. Bacon, sasuage, bags of chicken, packages of beef and pork, things that will help out.

“I just help him carry the stuff,” Sandy says, giving a small smile. “but I'll be here to help you pass the stuff out as usual. Just tell me how much we're giving to each person and all that.”

Lucy nods. “Three meat, four sweets, six breads, as many can goods as they can carry.”

“Gotcha, Lucy Liu,” Sandy pipes, as she finishes off her table of breads: sweet, sour, honey and all other types. Uncut, loaves of wheat and specialities.

By the time they're done, the tables are stacked and even underneath them. There's enough for a hundred people to get their share. Usually it's been fifty and seventy five that come in. Whoever is last will get more than they came there for or it'll be saved over for the next day.

Jared turns to look down the spacious room to see Alona, Aldis and a few others preparing the lunch line. The smell of food makes him hungry, he hasn't eaten anything today and as much as he'll hate himself, he'll probably grab something after everyone else gets their food. They never seem to mind, but part of him feels like he's taking advantage just because he brings in goods.

“I'm going to go help serve lunch,” Jared announces, as he let's Sandy, Josh and Lucy pass out food.

“Go ahead,” Lucy says absentmindedly as she goes through cans, a little ocd in the fact that she seperates each kind of food inside them and puts them together appropriately.

Jared heads over to the lunch line. Getting behind it as Alona turns toward him with a cheery smile and throws her arms around his neck. “I missed you, you big lug. Too bad you can't come here six days a week like the rest of us.”

Jared grins, hugging her tiny body to him. Long blond hair cascading against his chest. “I've gotta work the other five or else I would be.”

She let's go and grabs a hair net from the table at the back. Along the steel counter are pots and dishes of food for refills once they run out. “You should take a day off, just once and come in on Tuesday or something.”

“Maybe I'll do it when I have vacation time. Which is coming up in a couple months,” Jared tells her as she puts a hair net over her hair and folds it all in. He grabs one too and puts his luscious locks away.

People start coming in, it's filled to the brim with humans who can't catch a break. Jared and Alona joke the entire time, Aldis, who, is mostly quiet throws in a jab here and there. It's comfortable this way. The people come with haggard and tired faces, some of their stomachs rumble when they hit the scent of food, some smile and talk for a few seconds before they let other people in the line get theirs. He feels at home here, seeing all the new and old faces.

He does this for a reason. Jared grew up extremely poor. From the time he was a baby until he was eleven years old, his mother was on welfare and his father had been collecting unemployment checks which weren't much. Gerald, his dad, couldn't get a job no matter how hard he tried. Between his brother, himself and his little sister, it was difficult to keep food on the table or get things they needed, that were necessary. Sometimes they'd use shampoo for dish soap or dish soap for shampoo or to wash their bodies. There were times when they didn't have hot water, no water or had to go a few days without electricity until they got help from somewhere to turn it back on.

His mom and dad had to make a lot of hard decisions, rather they had to pay a bill or put food on the table. More often than not, food won out. It was a very difficult life back then. Some of the things that helped were food pantries and help for the poor. Jared and his brother made things strained because they really didn't want to be poor, and wanted all the cool things kids had. Josh grew out of it by the time he was fifteen but Jared stayed in that mode until he was thirteen or so. He'd make his mom feel so bad, she'd find a way to make sure he had spending money to go hang out with his friends at the mall. It wasn't until later, Jared realized what a brat he was being and how he had to understand instead of making things hard on their parents when they already felt terrible that they couldn't give their kids everything.

But everything was okay by the time he was a teenager. His dad found a job with an office that needed his skills, and his mother started working as a kindergarten teacher after Megan was old enough to understand that her big brothers would be picking her up from school. Things got better, less difficult and in the end they all turned out to be good people. At least they understood what it was like to struggle. Of course, Jared didn't want to ever be in that situation again, so he took his grandmother's recipes, used his non-fucked up credit to get loans and looked for people to believe in the goods. In the end he worked hard to get money, so his family never had to go through that again. He asked his parents and siblings if they wanted a hand in the company that came to life but they didn't, just asked that when he made it big, he'd help them out when they needed it and of course, that was his goal. That was what he believed in.

That's why when these people come by, looking for a bite to eat and food to put on their tables, he sees the faces of his mother, father, hungry little sister and frustrated older brother. He gets it. He knows any kind of help makes things much better. And it makes him feel good, makes him feel like a man to provide for others. His father always said a man is measured by how he takes care of his loved ones, and he always took that to heart.

The lunch line is starting to dwindle, less busy. Alona has gone quiet, he can tell she's tired and her arms probably hurt. Poor girl has that fiber myalgia disease that makes her body hurt without her medication. He wants to tell her take a break, but he's stopped by the sight of someone standing in front of him, that he has probably ignored for a few seconds because he's looking at Alona out of the corner of his eye. He turns with a smile on his face, noticing the reddish beard and scragly dark blonde hair. Mouth luscious, full lips and then the eyes are what really gets him. They're so sad. He's seen plenty of sad eyes but these are something else. It's like they tell a story he can't hear yet and he suddenly wants to know.

He wants to ask but what comes out of his mouth instead is “Chicken or beef?”

“Chicken,” a deep baritone voice says, looking down at the offered food in their trays.

Jared gives him two extra fried pieces and the man looks uncomfortable, avoiding his eyes. “What's your name, If you don't mind me asking?”

The man frowns a little and shrugs, looking down at his tray. “Jason.”

Jared smiles. “Pleasure to meet you, Jason. I'm Jared.”

The man nods. “You too, Jared. I'm going to go eat now.”

“Enjoy your meal, if you want seconds. Come back for more,” Jared tells him, as the man gives him a curious look and then heads toward the back of the room away from everyone else. Eating by himself.

He turns to Alona, leaning to the side to whisper. “Who is he? I've never seen him before.”

Alona serves someone else their mashed potatos and vegetable medley. “Jason Teague. Guy mostly comes here on weekdays, for the last year or so. He never comes on the weekends.”

“Oh, huh. Wonder why he came today then,” Jared murmurs, serving up more chicken and beef.

“Probably having a tough time. He's a really nice guy, just kinda quiet and shy. He barely speaks to anyone,” Alona tells him.

He nods. “I can see that.” Jared pauses for a moment, as more people get in line. “Go take a break. I'll do your job too. I know you're hurting.”

Alona looks at him with relief. “Thanks, sweetheart. I hardly ever get a break and my arms feel like lead by the end of the day. I'll only be fifteen minutes.”

“Take twenty,” Jared tells her with a small smile.

“Twenty,” She says, smiling back at him. She moves around him and takes out her cigarettes and lighter as she heads outside.

He looks back to see the line by the food giveaway and it's still long as hell. It'll be awhile before they're done. He goes back to handling the food and serving people, eyes briefly landing on Jason again, as he eats slowly and uses his knife and fork appropriately. 'Who are you?' he thinks to himself. He decides he'll find out one way or another.

--------------------

Jared thinks of Jason for the next two days. He doesn't know why, he really doesn't understand it but he feels like he's being pulled toward a flame. Something about the guy makes Jared want to sit down and listen to his whole life story. Whatever he has to say, whatever he wants to say, Jared wants to hear every last detail.

Then Amber calls him and he completely forgets about him. She wants a real date, somewhere low grade and fun. He agrees with her and they decide on Burger King and bowling. He picks her up, and she's wearing a flowery green blouse, a unzipped black hoodie, a pair of tight jeans and ugg boots. He makes fun of her for the ugg boots to which she playfully smacks him in the arm and tells him she has style. They eat with gusto, he's surprised that she can pack away so much. She eats two whoppers, a large fry and a sundae. Jared's impressed, really, usually his dates even Sandy would eat very little in front of him. Like he was going to judge them for liking food. He likes food, his girlfriend to be should like food too. Especially home cooked meals.

They go bowling and Amber beats him by ten points. She does the silliest dance in the middle of the bowling alley with people staring and Jared throws his head back and laughs loud and hard. Tears in his eyes. By the end of the night, everything feels good and he really thinks she could be his girlfriend for awhile but he doesn't want to put anything on the table, not till she makes the first move.

They're sitting in his car, in front of her house. They've been playing twenty questions which has gone past twenty five in the last half hour. Some answers, long, others short.

“Okay, favorite football team?,” Jared asks, leaning against his door.

“Jared. We live in Texas. Who do you think?,” Amber says with an adorable funny face.

“I don't know. You could like the Texans,” Jared says, rolling his eyes.

“Why? Do you like the Texans?,” Amber asks, quirking a brow.

“Hell no, Dallas all the way,” Jared says, smirking.

“Then you have your answer. Now a more serious question. You a mama's boy?,” She asks, hand coming to slide up his arm.

“Born and Bred Mama's boy. My mom was the first woman I wanted to marry. I remember telling my dad I wanted to duel him after we watched the Princess Bride, for my mom's hand in marriage. He won and told me I'd marry another girl someday,” Jared tells her, chuckling at the memory.

“Freud would have a field day with you, baby,” She says, making a mocking surprised face.

“Maybe. So, you a daddy's girl?,” Jared asks, feeling warm tingles from her hand on his arm.

“Oh yeah, definitely was when I was little but honestly? My dad and I fell out after I became a atheist. He loves me but wishes I would follow God and his ways,” She admits, looking a little sad.

Jared is surprised by this answer. “I would have never pegged you for a non-believer but yeah, parents should love their kids no matter what they believe in.”

“Do you believe in God?,” She asks, looking slightly curious.

“Not gonna lie but I do. I whole heartedly believe in him, it's because of God that my family survived a lot of hardship, without him and the help of god-fearing people, we would have starved when I was a kid,” He tells her, shrugging his shoulders.

“If you won't hold being a atheist against me, then I won't hold you being a jesus freak against you,” She says with a playful wink.

“Jesus freak, huh?,” Jared says with a laugh. “Don't put me with people who take religion too far. I definitely don't. I'm open minded, believe in letting people live their lives.”

“Yes, Jesus freak but we'll get along, long as you don't push your beliefs on me,” Amber says, smiling up at him.

He looks down, her lips are right there and he leans in for a kiss. It's soft, kinda sweet and her tongue moves against his slowly.

She pulls back and grins. “You want to come inside? I got a early day tomorrow but I can make time for you.”

Jared shakes his head. “No, gotta be at work early in the morning. Besides I don't want to end this with sex. We've had such a good time, I don't want this to be all it's about.”

She pouts. “Aww, come on. You've already had the goods, why not sample them a second time?”

Jared chuckles. “Our third date. We'll go right to the sack and re-experience our first night together. Promise.”

“Whatever you say, cowboy but I should get going,” She says, leaning up to kiss him on the cheek. “It's your turn to call me.”

“I will. Have a good night,” He tells her as she opens the door and gets out.

“You too,” She calls as she walks to her door.

Jared starts the truck, and sits there a moment. He really likes her. She's uncomplicated, straight forward, beautiful and more genuine than his past dates and relationships. He could see them going far. What you see is what you get. It would be so easy, but he feels like he's missing something at the same time. Maybe she'll be that something in the long run.

--------------------

The week passes normally as it always does. He has a meeting with Goodies, they agreed to the terms and conditions, which he's happy about. Adrianne and him talk about how their days have been going, he talks about Amber and doesn't even mention Jason, mostly because Jason isn't on his mind.

Saturday rolls around, and he does exactly what he did last week with buying food and setting things up. The line is long again and he is friendly with everyone and everyone seems a little friendlier than they did before. He sees Jason at the end of the line, and feels anticipation low in his belly as it churns. Finally he comes to the front and Jared gives his biggest smile.

“Hey, Jason,” He says softly. “Extra meatloaf for you today.”

Jason actually looks up and gives Jared a look which says he's suspicious.

“Just extra foodies,” Jared adds, piling two large slabs on his plate.

Jason just looks at him critically then nods. “Thanks.” He walks away and sits by himself again in the back of the room, away from everyone else.

Jared watches him as he serves, and then ten minutes later when Jason is still eating, he turns to Alona and tell her he's taking a break. He keeps his apron on and grabs a plate of food for himself. He pretends to look around a moment, as not to look obvious and then makes a beeline for Jason's table, taking a seat in front of him.

Jason looks up, blinks then looks back down.

“So, I noticed how lonely you are over here,” Jared says, stabbing his meatloaf and taking a bite.

“I'm... fine by myself,” Jason says low and throaty.

“I think you could use some company,” Jared says, smiling.

Jason doesn't say anything and continues eating carefully, his food is cut into small pieces and he chews methodically like he has all the time in the world.

“So... I was wondering about your story. How you came to be homeless, what your life has been like,” Jared starts, gazing at him expectantly.

Jason grunts and just keeps eating.

“Maybe, we'll start with me instead,” Jared says cheerfully around a mouth full of food. His mama always said he had no table manners anyway. “When I was seven, I went up into a tree, got stuck and then fell to my doom, breaking my arm in two places. It hurt like a bitch and I wouldn't climb a tree for years after that. The next time I did was on a dare from my friend, Chad when we were sixteen Got over my fear of trees then.”

Jason still doesn't say anything.

Jared keeps talking, about the time when he first got drunk and threw up all over Cindy Macvoy's shoes. And the time his mother caught him masturbating to porn on his laptop and ended up taking his computer away for a week to ensure he understood that it was a sin and he shouldn't be looking at it. Of course, he didn't stop looking at it. He just learned to be more discreet. He talks about his first love, Layla Brown and how she broke his heart by going after his friend Chester instead of him even though she promised they'd go to homecoming together.

Jason doesn't say anything, avoids eye contact and Jared just talks for a full thirty minutes. During that time,. Jason gets a cup of coffee. Jared thinks he's leaving him behind but he comes back and sits down, looks at Jared for a second and then goes sipping his hot beverage. Jared didn't think he was listening but now he knows it.

By the time Jason is done with his coffee, he looks up and says very quietly. “Thanks for talking to me.” and leaves with his tray and empty cup.

Jared thinks it's a start.

Chapter Text

Jared wakes up groggier than usual, takes a long hot shower and jerks off to thoughts of Amber. For a brief second while she's riding him in his mind, he flashes to Jason's sad eyes and pale pink lips. He brings himself from the stupor because while he has thought of other guys in his youth, he's never been with a man. So it's a little on the odd side for him.

He gets to work early and works through three cups of coffee, his meeting with Goodies goes well and they're shaking hands by the end of it. Jared feels good about this one but his mind keeps flashing to Jason, and his soft spoken thank you the other day. It's hard not to think about it, to think about him. There's something enigmatic about the guy that just gets to him.

He goes back to his office, and sits down in his chair, exhaling as he let's his mind unwind.

Five minutes later, Adrianne comes in with a cup of coffee and smiles. “Amber is on line one.”

Jared blinks in slight surprise. “Huh, wonder why she's calling me at work.”

“Don't know, but I think she must be pretty serious about you if she wants to speak with you here,” Adrianne says with a sly smile, leaving the room.

Jared's finger hoovers over the hold button and he knows she must be as serious about him as he is about her. They've been talking for the last three days whenever they have time, and the conversations border on downright silly. She's a goofball. He picks up the phone, presses the button and speaks. “Amber.”

“Jared,” She sing songs. “How are you, baby?”

“Good, Good. Just finished a meeting,” He says with a slight pause. “How about you?”

“Wonderful actually, finished my newest sculpture and plan on selling it this weekend,” She answers, making a ticking noise with what he suspects is her tongue.

“So, you know that guy Jason I was telling you about?,” Jared asks, tapping his fingers on his desk.

“Yeah, the homeless guy,” She says.

“I can't stop thinking about him. Starting to think the only way to get him out of my head is to offer him a job and a place to live,” Jared says, leaning back in his chair and staring up at the ceiling.

“You know, usually I date assholes. You're two hundred notches up from that. Marry me?,” She says, giggling.

“If we make it that far,” Jared says with a chuckle. “But seriously. How do I get this guy off my mind?”

“Do what you want to do, offer him a job. It'll get him off the street, and out of your brain,” She suggests.

Jared hums softly and spins around to face the outside world, buildings as far as the eyes can see. “I'll think about it.” And Jared will. He wants to be Jason's friend first. Jared has a problem with making friends especially when they know who he is and what he does for a living. Chad and Sandy are pretty much his only true friends. Everyone else uses him for money, loans, to get them stuff. He's a nice guy and he'll comply with the requests but usually his feelings are hurt in the end and he ends up questioning who his real friends are. That's the downside of having a lot of money. He even questions if Amber is liking him for him or the money even though she has plenty of her own.

“Just do it,” She tells him, and he can hear her smirk across the line.

“I will,” He says firmly, but he knows he'll wait. “Will I get to see this new sculpture of yours?”

They talk for the next twenty minutes, catching up on today's events and he makes plans to go to her house after work tomorrow to see her artwork. They haven't done that yet. Jared can't stop thinking of Jason the entire time.

---------------------

The music at the bar is a tone lower than too loud and he sits across from Chris and Mark with Chad at his side. He doesn't go out too often, so Chad dragged him out of the house. He always does. He's on his fourth beer and it's hardly dented his brain but after the eighth, he'll be sloshed. It's shaping up to be a good night, they make bets to see who can get the most numbers and Jared feels kinda uncomfortable. He and Amber haven't talked about being exclusive and he suddenly wants to call her to see if they are but he doesn't want to seem clingy, even though he seriously can be in a relationship.

He decides he'll do it but he won't call any of them, even if he's attracted. He gets up and starts walking toward the bar when he sees an unmistakable person sitting at the bar, turned toward a man in a suit. Jason? Really? At a bar? The man he's talking to, has a meaty hand on his arm and he's whispering to him with a smile on his face. Jared walks up slowly and grins. “Jason. Nice to see you here.”

Jason looks up, shock etched on his face and he frowns, looking away.

“Get lost, I'm trying to get some action,” The fat guy says.

Jared blinks, and it dawns on him. His heart sinks and his frown mirrors Jason's. Jensen's doing this to survive. Why else would he go after a dude who isn't even the slightest bit attractive? “Hey, dude. You don't have to go anywhere with this guy. If you need money, I'll give it to you.”

Jason just ignores him and keeps looking at the floor. The overgrown guy gives Jared a pissed off look. “What part of get lost don't you understand, big guy?”

Jared scoffs, wondering where this guy gets off on calling people big. He should be looking at himself. “Jason, seriously. I'll give you whatever you need.”

Jason looks up, face pinched and peevish looking. “Leave me the fuck alone.”

Jared blinks, taken back and feels a little hurt. “Hey... I'm just trying to help.”

“I don't need your help. Come on, Daniel,” Jason says as he grabs the guy by the arm and pulls him off the stool as they make their way out of the bar.

Jared watches, sadness surrounding him and he really doesn't feel like partying anymore. If Jason doesn't want his help, then he supposes he can't try and win him that way. He'll just have to keep being persistent in other ways. Being his friend should be good enough, or at least he hopes so.

He tries not to think about Jason in an alley or somewhere else, having heavy weight pressing down on top of him. The guy has to smell terrible, he blocks the thoughts from his mind as he makes it back to the table.

“I'm leaving,” Jared tells his friends.

“Aw, come on. We just got started,” Mark says, holding up his beer as if to prove his point.

“No, I really gotta go. Gonna call it an early night,” Jared says, feigning fatigue.

“I'm coming with you, tittywatt,” Chad says, draining his beer and throwing a fifty on the table.

Jared wants to protest but he kinda wouldn't mind a little company. They head to his house in separate cars and boot up the PS3 to play call of duty. Jared's heart really isn't in it, so Chad wins almost everytime.

“Okay, what's got you all messed up?,” Chad asks, pausing the game.

Jared shrugs. “Nothing.”

“No, I know you. Somethings eating at your whittle heart. Tell me,” Chad persists.

Jared sighs. “There's this homeless guy that comes to Family Pride to eat every weekend and apparently on weekdays too. I've been trying to talk to him, make a friend, you know that kinda stuff.”

Chad looks at him, face questioning. “Continue.”

“I saw him tonight at the bar with this guy and I knew he was selling himself to this guy. I offered him money instead of having to sleep with the him and he told me leave him alone. Then went off with him,” Jared explains, thumb twitching over the x button on his controller.

“Jared....we've been over this. You're a bleeding heart and you can't save every cat, and dog stuck in a tree. It's going to just break your fucking heart everytime you try,” Chad tells him, patting him on the head.

Jared brushes his hand away and nods. “I know, but I can't help myself. This guy could really use a friend, it's a feeling I get.”

Chad nods. “Yeah, but some people? Don't want friends. You need to remember that.”

Jared exhales and leans back against the couch.

He goes to bed that night, tries sleeping but he keeps hearing Jason's 'Leave me the fuck alone.' in his head repeating like a broken record.

--------------------

Still reeling from his brief meeting with Jason, Jared calls Amber up and asks her to go to Breezy Bay. The Waterpark, three miles outside of Austin. She agrees immediately and tells him how she used to go there with her parents a lot when she was little. Jared picks out his best swimming trunks, simple green made of expensive material and hugs him in all the right ways. It's their second date and he kinda wants her mouth drooling to get him into bed on the third. He kinda likes the thrill of waiting, to rediscover what her bodies like when he's not drunk on sneaking fruit juice and high on pot. When he picks her up, she's wearing a pink wrap around that's sheer and hugs to her curves and a yellow polka dotted bikini top. He sings the song to her, laughing and she finishes the verses he doesn't know.

It's a good day. They act like immature children, chasing each other around and trying to drown one another in the chlorine laden waters. They eat a picnic at the deigned beach area, then get ice cream cones which ends up in a sword fight. Only resulting in them being messy. They top the day off with a passionate goodbye kiss, she asks him into the house again and he's tempted, very tempted but a third date has to happen first. It's the thrill of the mild chase they have going on and he likes it but he's giddy with excitement, this really could be a relationship he has been waiting for.

---------------------

The shelter is buzzing with new faces, so many people that Jared can't introduce himself enough and he's lost count of the people coming in and out. The city had a recent financial crisis that affected a lot of businesses, and people in the process. He knows there have been over two hundred people in today and they're running out of food at the give away tables, which makes him realize he'll have to buy more next Saturday.

Lost in his thoughts about how people are trying to survive at the moment. He doesn't see who is in front of him. He looks up and comes face to face with those sad glass jeweled eyes once again and this time he sees something else, he really can't place. “Hey,” he says softly. “Porkchop or Chicken wings?”

Jason actually makes eye contact this time, then shrugs. “Whichever you recommend.”

Jared tries for a smile, but it feels false on his face. He can see in his mind's eye Jason on his knees, sucking off the fat guy from last week but he answers anyway. “Porkchop is kinda tough, accidental burning on a lot of them. So chicken wings?”

Jason nods. “Yeah, that.”

Jared serves him up and Jason leaves without a word. He takes his break a few minutes later, taking eight chicken wings and his own macaroni salad. Instead of making a show, he walks right over to Jason's table and plops down in front of him. He's not easily deterred and he feels like something has changed today.

“I'm really sorry about the other night. I shouldn't have gotten in your business,” Jared apologizes, trying to sound as sincere as possible and he does feel bad, Jason has to do what he has to do and he needs to stay out of it.

Jason pauses eating his food, swallows and looks up a moment. “It's okay.”

Jared is slightly surprised by his less than aggressive voice this time. It's soft and demure. For the brief second that Jason looks at him, he notices how long his eyelashes are and how they stand out in the light of the cafeteria. His stomach warms as they brush along his cheeks, and reveal his crystalline eyes.

“What color are your eyes?,” Jared asks suddenly, wanting to know.

Jason looks up, blinking then coloring a little at his cheeks. “Green.”

“They seem so translucent, it was kinda hard to tell but they're nice eyes,” Jared tells him, smiling softly.

Jason doesn't say anything, just looks down and blushes further.

“Anyway, so let me continue my life for you,” Jared says, oddly touched by the blushing. “When I was nine, my friends and I road our bikes into this old amusement park. It was from the nineteen forties or something, one of the first ever built but it had too many accidents and had to close down before it was even open a year. My friend Trish and her brother, Cory were dared by our other friends to climb this old rickety coaster. Trish was always a brave girl, so she did it but when Cory did it, he fell through the tracks and I had to go up and try to get him out.”

“I get the feeling something really bad happened in this story,” Jason says, pushing his food around on his tray.

“It did. Cory slipped from my hands, plummeted down to the ground and broke both his legs. Ambulance came and my friends, what good friends they were, blamed it all on me. Said I dared the two of them and no matter how many times Trish tried to tell her mother, it was them, not me, I wasn't allowed to talk to them for the rest of the summer. It was so boring without them, and I didn't want to hang with the traitors either. So it became a very slow summer, full of nothing but watching tv and playing with my brother every now and then,” Jared rambled on, barely touching his food.

“I've had friends like that, those that betray you when you least expect it,” Jason says, biting down on his lip.

“Yeah, I've had a few myself but shit happens, we learn who our friends are in the end,” Jared tells him with a shrug.

Jason nods and Jared continues. He goes on about the time he took his parents car four hours away to go to a Smashing Pumpkins concert, ended up running out of gas on the way back and his Uncle Mike had to come bring him gas so he could come home. He was grounded for two months, it was the longest two months of his life. He tells Jason about the time he lost his virginity to Anita Morris and it was terrible, worse than terrible. She came before him and he couldn't get off. Maybe it was because she wasn't so pretty in the face or he wasn't doing it right but it was sloppy and horrible all the same. Jason blushed the whole time he was telling it but it only spurred Jared on more to keep telling him. Jared goes on with his stories and Jason interjects every now and then with questions and his own words.

When Jared is in the middle of telling about the time he and his dad built a doghouse for Brandy, their yorkshire terrier and how he broke his hand, Jason gets up suddenly with his tray and leaves. Jared sits there, stunned and feels a little hurt but then Jason is back, sitting across from him.

“Want to go for a walk?,” He asks, looking down with a hot cup of coffee in his fingerless gloved hands.

Jared blinks, and smiles. “Sure, let me dump my tray and tell them I'll be back in a bit.”

Jared gets up, let's Alona and Aldis know. Sandy comes over and takes over for him while he leaves. They leave the premises and walk around the block, Jared's hands in his hoodie. It's kinda chilly and he briefly wonders if Jason needs a new coat, his old one is tattered and there are holes in it. Not to mention his t-shirt is stained but he seems content with what he has. So he doesn't mention it.

“So, tell me your story this time?,” Jared asks, as they walk side by side, shoulders brushing.

“Not much to tell,” Jason says, sipping from his coffee as chilly air whips at their faces. It's Winter in Texas and it's not always so hot.

“Okay, let me guess. You lost your job, maybe your wife and kids, or you got kicked out of your house and you still work,” Jared says, ticking off the possibly.

Jason gives a non-concomitantly shrug and grunts.

“You're an orphan and you didn't end up with any life skills, so you ended up on the streets and you don't even know where you start,” Jared says, glancing over at him.

“Something like that,” Jason says, licking his chapped lips.

“Ah, must be tough. How old are you?,” Jared asks as they pass the Sam Goody's. Briefly he wonders if he could get any new c.ds, he has such a large collection at home and nearly every c.d in existence, usually he orders online because he doesn't have a whole lot of time to shop.

“Thirty Three,” Jason murmurs.

“You're not old yet, you could do something. I could offer you a job and a place to stay until you get on your feet,” Jared suggests, giving a small smile.

“No, that's quite alright,” Jason says too quickly.

“Really, it wouldn't be any trouble,” Jared insists.

“I'm fine. Just drop it,” Jason says in a pleading voice.

Jared nods. “Okay. But the offer is still open. You could drop by my house sometimes, get a warm shower and a change of clothes. Something to eat. I wouldn't mind.”

It's silent for a moment then Jason speaks. “Thanks.”

“You're welcome,” Jared says softly, wanting to reach out and touch him but he doesn't.

They part ways a half hour later, after going around the complex twice. Some of it, Jared talked and Jason just talked back a little bit. He helps pass out the rest of the food when he returns to Family Pride and when it's done at two in the afternoon, he goes home to take a nap. He smiles to himself, feeling like he's done more than good today. He's made a friend.

Chapter Text

“I'm pregnant,” Adrianne announces as she stands in front of Jared's desk, hand on her stomach.

Jared looks at her in astonishment. “Wow, Addy. Congrats. Sam happy about this new development?”

She laughs. “You know he is, we've been trying for a fucking year. It's about time but we didn't want to say anything until I was in my second trimester. His mother had a fit and my mom just told me she won't be babysitting. Figures, right?”

“Parents, never know what to expect from them,” Jared says with a grin. He knows Sam must be happy, he always wanted a kid. He introduced the two to each other over three years ago and within a year they were married. It was a beautiful ceremony. Full of love and laughter, Jared remembers wanting a wedding like that himself when he saw it.

“So, you got any deals on the table for me, bossman?,” Adrianne asks, flopping down on the chair across from him.

“Twelve weeks paid leave before the little bun is due, and three months after. I'd say unpaid but I think you'd strangle me,” Jared teases, grinning.

“You're damn right, Padalecki. I'd have you hung up on a noose with my demon baby wailing in my arms,” Adrianne says, metaphorically ruffling her feathers. “Just wonder who you'll get to replace me for the time I'm gone.”

“I'll find someone, don't worry,” Jared waves off, shaking his head. “You're making me want kids though. I always said I'd have a full family by the time I'm thirty and I'm already twenty nine.”

“I said the same thing, two years before I hit the big three O, I'm pretty happy but you'll have kids, you just gotta find the right person. Maybe Amber, you know?,” Adrianne says, rubbing her stomach.

“Yeah, maybe her,” Jared says, absentmindedly. Wondering if it's too early to propose.

His cellphone rings, usually he keeps it off but it's lunch hour so he decided to keep it on. He looks at the screen, and holds a finger up to Adrianne.

“Don't worry, I need to eat lunch. Eating for two now,” She claims, getting up and walking out of his office.

He nods, sees that it's Mark and answers. “Jared speaking.”

“Hey, man. How are ya?,” Mark starts, but Jared knows what's up. Mark only calls when he needs something.

“Nothing much, just having lunch,” He answers, as he takes a drink of his cappuccino.

“Okay, so listen. I need a favor,” Mark says in a tentative tone.

“Listening,” Jared speaks, sipping slowly. He feels a little sad. Mark has a drug addiction, to pain killers.

“I need a thousand dollars,” Mark cuts straight to the point.

Jared sighs. “What for?”

“Just something I need to take care of,” Mark says, swallowing audibly.

“You already owe me over three thousand, dude. You could at least tell me what it's for,” Jared says, slight anger in his voice. He really doesn't care about the money, but it's the fact what Mark plans to do with it that gets under his skin.

“Okay... drugs, man. Drugs. I know I said I'd quit but this will be the last time, I swear,” Mark promises.

“This is the last time and then you check yourself into rehab. I'll take you there to be sure you do it,” Jared says, frowning.

“Okay, yeah, I'll do it. Just please give me the money,” Mark says, and Jared can imagine him chewing on his lower lip.

“I'll bring it by after work,” Jared says in a clipped tone and hangs up.

He leans his head back and sighs. His thoughts along the fact that he'll do anything for his friends but he hates contributing to anything that could get them killed. He really does.

--------------------

He drops off the money at Mark's, there are a bunch of people there he doesn't recognize and one person comes up to to ask Mark if he has the money. His eyes sunken in and his face pinched tight with sickness. Dope Sick. He handed over the money and told Mark not to call him until he was ready for Rehab. Mark called after him but he ignored the guy and got in his truck, speeding off.

He gets home, takes off his suit and dresses down into his pajamas. He's still pretty pissed off about the whole ordeal. When he answers his phone, he's not polite or friendly.

“What do you want?,” He snaps, voice laced with vehemence.

“Nothing if I'm bothering you,” Amber says coolly.

Jared straightens up, remote in hand as he mutes the television. “Amber. Sorry... bad day, didn't mean to sound so fucking sullen.”

Her tone changes, softer. “Tell me about it, baby.”

“My secretary is pregnant,” He starts off.

“That's not bad news, that's exciting,” She says with a breathy laugh.

“I know, but it made me want kids,” Jared says with a brief sigh.

“You'll have kids someday, lots of them,” She says, making a kiss noise through the phone.

He smiles, already feeling better. “Yeah, hopefully. And then my friend called, wanted to borrow money. For fucking drugs.”

“Ah, that kinda friend. Oh boy, you should have said no,” Amber chides.

“I would have but he's my friend, I can't deny my friends. I can't even deny strangers,” He says, sounding somber to his ears.

“Grow a back bone, darling. People will walk all over you if you don't,” Amber answers.

“I know, I know,” Jared says, shaking his head.

“I know what will make you feel better,” Amber says brightly.

“What?,” Jared asks, pursing his lips.

“Come out with me and my friends tonight. It's a couples thing and I seriously need a date. So, who else but you, hm?,” She teases,Texan lilt to her voice.

He's already in his sleep wear, but going out doesn't sound so bad. “I'll come but this counts as our third date, you know.”

“I know. Ready for the sexing, baby,” She says with a laugh.

“Oh yeah, can't wait to get my hands on you,” Jared chuckles. “Where we meeting?”

She tells him the bar, the same one he always goes to. He takes a long shower, gets dressed in his nicest casual clothes and wears a pair of comfortable loafers. He's at the bar in a half hour. Soon as he walks in, it's the same down home atmosphere. Soft lighting, a long red oak bar with comfortable stools, booths all over the place and it's not nearly as packed as it usually would be on a Thursday night. He spots Amber with a group of people, her head thrown back as her white teeth gleam in the light and her long blonde hair falling over her shoulder like a silk curtain. He grins and makes his way over. Grabbing a chair and sits down at the end of the booth.

“Jared, baby, you made it!,” Amber exclaims, reaching out to kiss him on the mouth with a loud smack. She turns to her friends. “This is Jared, the guy I was telling you about. Isn't he a handsome devil?”

“Sexy piece of ripe fruit,” a girl with long dark hair says. “I'm Kristen. This is Taylor., my boyfriend.” She points at a guy with carmelized skin and a rather large nose, but he's still good looking.

“And these two I'm squishing into the booth are Misha and Felicia, husband and wife pair. They've been together for ten years,” Amber says, as the redhead smiles and cheerfully waves at him.

“Nice to meet you, Jared,” Felicia says, blue eyes gleaming.

“Don't let her tell you about her turtles,” Misha pipes up.

Jared blinks. “What about them?”

“I've been experimenting with them in the lab, seeing if I can evolutionize them. It's a personal project that my boss isn't too fond of,” Felicia explains, smirking.

“She wants ninja turtles, she thinks she can be splinter if she tries hard enough,” Misha says looking gloom. “I try to tell her, her fantasies will never come true but she tries so hard. She's been trying to get me to dress up as Leonardo for a year in the bedroom. It's very peculiar.”

Jared laughs. “I bet.”

“My friends are utter weirdos,” Amber says with a roll of her eyes.

“Hey, I'm not weird at all,” Kristen says, pouting.

“Okay, but sometimes your lack of emotions are disturbing,” Amber tells her, snickering.

“She smiles, just when we're alone and no one else is around. She wants people to think she's a robot,” Taylor says, chuckling.

“I'm just very particular about what kinda emotions I show,” Kristen says, giving a small smile.

Jared laughs as they try to include him in conversation. It flows easily as they order drink after drink, knocking them back. The night wears on and Jared gets up to go to the bathroom, on the way he passes Jason sitting at the bar with a man who at least looks like a looker this time but he doesn't intrude, not like last time. He comes out a few minutes later and they're gone. He sits back with his friends, as chatter continues and he turns fifteen minutes later to see Jason sitting at the bar by himself. He excuses himself and walks over, sitting at the bar with him.

“Hey, it's great seeing you again,” Jared says, turning to face him, legs splayed open.

Jason turns, startled but he smiles shyly. “Hi.”

“So, I'm here with a group of friends, we'd love it if you joined in the company time. I'm sure they'd welcome you with open arms,” Jared says, smiling.

Jason shakes his head. “I don't want to intrude.”

“You won't be. I mean, it's a couples thing but they're a cool bunch, sure they wouldn't mind,” Jared tells him, grinning lopsidedly.

Jensen heaves a breath and nods. “Okay, I'll join you.”

Jared gets up from the stool, Jensen following behind him. He grabs an extra chair and puts it beside his. Sitting down, he puts an arm over Jason's shoulder. “This, everyone, is Jason. A Friend of mine.”

Recognition passes over Amber's eyes and she smiles softly at him. “Hey, Jason. I've heard a lot about you.”

Jason ducks his head, and licks his lips. “Ah? Jared talk a lot about me?”

“Not a whole lot but a enough,” Amber says with a tease to her voice.

Everyone goes around and introduces themselves. Misha furrows his brow and stares at Jason hard.

“I know you from somewhere,” Misha says, leaning in toward Jason.

Jason frowns. “I doubt it.”

“No, I really do. From work, I know I've seen you,” Misha insists.

Jared turns to look at Jason, and raises his eyebrow.

Jason shakes his head. “No... I haven't worked anywhere in years. You seriously wouldn't have.”

Misha frowns, then nods. “Case of mistaken identity.”

Jared forgets the weirdness as soon as Misha and Felicia start telling crazy tales, some about them doing whacky things as a couple, like skydiving and possibly taking their eleven year old son next year. It's a laughing Palooza, even Jason laughs, his head thrown back and the line of his throat revealed. Jared can't help but stare at how open and free he looks. He wants Jason to stay like that forever. He smiles at Jared, it's brilliant through the haze of beard, and he wonders how he keeps his teeth so clean if he has no place to live or rest his head but that flies from his mouth as he stops drinking beers and becomes aware of his need to stay sober for the drive home.

As the night dwindles down, he watches as Kristen yawns across the table.

“I'm beat guys, time to head home,” She says, stretching her arms and roaring like a baby dinosaur.

“Aww, we're just getting started,” Taylor says, snapping his fingers. “But you know what? I'm tired too. Should spend my day off tomorrow lazing around the house.”

“Alright, guess we should call it a night,” Amber chimes in.

Jared nods. Looking at his cellphone briefly. It's near three in the morning. “God, yeah. Gotta be at work in a few hours. I'll be leaving you all now. It was nice meeting you guys.” He stands up and Amber does too, they hug each other and she kisses him on the cheek, whispering call me.

“Thanks for letting me in your circle,” Jason says as he gets up. There's a chorus of no problem and you were so cute. Jason blushes.

Jason walks toward the front of the bar and Jared catches up with him. “You need a ride to a shelter or something?”

Jason looks at him and shakes his head. “I'd rather walk.”

Jared nods. “Okay. I'll see you at Family Pride this weekend, probably. It was really great hanging out with you.”

“Yeah, you too,” Jason says as he leaves out the door. Jared watches him for a second and wants to hear that deep baritone laugh, how it washes over you and makes you want to bath in it's glory. He thinks Jason should laugh all the time. His bad mood definitely deflated.

-------------------------

Jared doesn't see Jason for the next three weeks. He looks for him but he never shows up, a deep pit of disappoint simmers in his stomach. He feels like a lost puppy, who got sent to a new home and now he misses his old owners. He wonders what happened but he tells himself Jason probably found a job and somewhere to live. He should be happy for him, everyone deserves that.

The fourth week rolls by and Jason finally shows up, looking haggard and more tired than usual. Jared wants to smile but the melancholy in his eyes has increased tenfold. He looks like someone stole his bike and refused to give it back. They exchange briefly, mainly about what he wants today and Jason takes it, and goes to his usual seat.

Jared takes his break and walks over, sitting down across from him. “Where have you been, dude? I've been worried about you.”

Jason looks up, his eyes are red rimmed and there are tears forming at the corner of his eyes. “Got some bad news,” he says gruffly.

“What kinda bad news?,” Jared hedges, frowning.

“Nothing I really feel like talking about,” Jason says, shrugging.

“I'm here if you want to talk,” Jared says as softly as he can.

Jason nods. “Thanks.”

Jared doesn't feel like talking too much today, not when Jason is hurting over something. He feels like his stories would be trivial, so they eat in silence and Jared watches him every once in awhile, how slow and precise he eats his food.

As Jason gets up to take his tray away, Jared reaches out and stops him at his wrist. “Hey, look... if you need a place to stay or somewhere to lay your head for the night. Give me a call? I live like four blocks away from here, so it wouldn't be that hard of a walk, I don't think.”

Jason looks at him a long moment then nods. He puts his tray down and takes out a phone which looks like an expensive blackberry. Jared raises his eyebrow at it but decides not to comment. He rattles off his number, as Jason enters it into his phone.

“I'll...,” Jason trails off, pursing his lips. “I'll see you around.” He pockets his phone and leaves Jared to his thoughts. He's itching to know what the problem is.

--------------------

The next two weeks are amazing, Jason talks a little more and he goes out with Amber on their next three dates. They go a skating rink, for a picnic and walk in the park and finally they decide to go around to random places and chill out like a couple of kids. One of those places leads them to go hiking through a forest at nine o'clock at night, they almost get lost but eventually find their way back after they get spooked by something following them in the woods. They go back to Jared's house and have hot steamy sex, it's better than he remembers but they don't curl up in the way Jared wants to. She's not as affectionate as he'd like but she's affectionate enough.

He gets up after Amber falls asleep and walks into the kitchen to throw together a late dinner, his phone rings and he looks at the caller I.D. Unknown caller.

“Hello?,” He answers, phone pressed between his cheek and shoulder.

“Jared?,” A recognizable voice comes through the line. That smooth baritone with a tint of roughness to it.

“Jason? Hey. What's up?,” Jared asks, cutting up chicken into small pieces.

“Can I come over?,” Jason asks quietly, he can hear someone talking in the background but he can't make it out.

Jared thinks of Amber in the bedroom, and wonders if she mind if he had a little company. “Sure, yeah, come over.” He rattles off his address, and Jason hangs up with a soft bye. Which he likes because Goodbye seems so final in his mind.

Amber gets up, wearing one of his big shirts and walks up to him, hugging him from behind. “Hey, baby.”

“Hey,” He says with a smile curling up at the corners of his mouth. “Thought you were asleep?”

“I can never sleep in a strange house, used to suck going to sleepovers,” She murmurs against his back. “What you making?”

“Chicken Alfredo,” He answers simply, kinda wishing she was comfortable in his home.

“Mmm, sounds tasty,' She says, jumping up on the counter, ankles crossed.

“Wouldn't be in the food business if my food wasn't delicious,” He quips, grinning.

“True, we've been on so many dates and I've never been able to taste your home cooking, better be good enough for me to understand why people buy your product,” She chides, smirking.

“Oh, it will be,” He says, leaning forward to peck her on the lips.

There's a knock on the door and they break apart.

“Oh shit, forgot to tell you. Jason is coming over, that should be him,” Jared says as he stirs the chicken together in the small bit of oil.

“That's cool. I'll answer the door,” Amber says, jumping off and heading into the hallway.

He wants to ask 'In that?' but if he's learned anything about her, it's that she has no shame. She comes back ten seconds later with Jason in tow. He has on a slightly different outfit than usual, still the clothes aren't anything to be impressed by and Jared kinda wants to take him shopping for a new outfit, something nicer.

“Welcome to my humble abode,” Jared says, waving.

“It's a nice place,” Jason says, standing there a bit awkward and fidgety.

“So, Jason. Tell me something about yourself,” Amber jumps in, sitting back up on the counter next to Jared.

Jason frowns a bit and licks his lips. “I um... I like sudoku and cross words.”

Jared blinks, he was never able to get that much out of him.

“Really? I've never been able to do that. I get so frustrated with numbers or trying to find words. It's nerve wrecking,” Amber replies, smiling at him. “Must mean you're smarter than hell.”

Jason's cheeks color and he shakes his head. “No, not really. It's easy once you get the hang of it.”

“No, seriously, man. She's right, I can't do that shit either. I've tried, never saw the appeal or the answers,” Jared says as he grabs a jar of alfredo sauce out of the top cupboard.

Jason shrugs. “I could show you guys if you want.”

“Oh, I'd love that. Give me something else to pass the time anytime,” Amber says.

Jason nods. “Okay, next time I come over and you're here.”

Jared smiles, knowing there will be a next time warms his heart.

They eat dinner in the dining room with Amber asking Jason all kinds of questions. Turns out he went to the top college in Texas. Hasn't been able to find a job he likes in years and he has no wife and kids. Something about that makes Jared happy, even though he doesn't want to examine why too closely.

Afterwards, they head into the living room, piling on the couch to watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Amber curls into Jared and Jason sits next to Amber. It's in the middle of the movie when Jason screams once, and Jared and Amber look at him. Eyebrows raised.

“You scared?,” Amber asks, chuckling.

Jason shakes his head. “No, not at all.”

He screams again when Leatherface cuts into one of his victims. Jason hides his face in his hands, peeking out through splayed fingers.

Jared laughs this time. “You're so scared, dude.”

Jason blushes and visibly swallows, shrugging his shoulders.

“Cuddle up to me and we'll make a sandwich of safety against the horrors lurking in the dark,” Amber tells him, as she let's go of Jared and throws an arm around Jason's waist.

Jason looks confused for a second then reluctantly throws an arm around her shoulders and cuddles in.

“There we go,” She whispers, head on his shoulder.

Jared throws his arm over the back of Amber, his hand coming to rest against Jason's neck, he can feel the fine hairs there, neck warm and he's shaking a little but he seems to relax at Jared's hand, fingers flexing at the skin, giving a gentle squeeze. Jason doesn't seem to mind at all. Jared smiles.

Chapter Text

It becomes a regular occurrence. Jason comes around at least three nights a week, he stays for the night sometimes and other times he goes when Jared finally heads to bed. Amber is there sometimes, making Jensen talk more than he usually does. Usually they just discuss worldly events or entertainment news that Jensen hasn't heard about. One thing Jared has learned about Amber is the fact that she loves celebrity gossip but is strangely into the stock market and has a PH.D in physics. He knows he could fall in love with her especially since she bakes the best cookies (sending Jason along with bagfuls at a time) and loves horror movies. She's pretty much a shoo in for the future Mrs. Padalecki.

Jason is also comfortable around her and her empathy for homeless people makes him like her that much more. But that brings him back to Jason, how he's fitting into Jared's life and the fact that he has a friend who doesn't know how much money he makes or even asks for much more than a meal and a warm shower. He never asks to borrow money or makes comments about Jared's lofty penthouse. Like he's unimpressed with riches. He just stays and watches a movie with Jared on the couch or goes over crossword puzzles with him as they try to find words together. He's learned that Jason knows big words that Jared has never heard of and understands them whole heartedly, explaining to him what they mean. Like supplication and electrum. Really? He didn't know their meanings at all until him.

Jason brings him small gifts, things he did at Family Pride, when they have crafts and art time. Mostly for children but they invite everyone of all ages to participate. He has a painted wooden photo frame on his end table that Jensen did beautifully in a pale yellow. His mother and father's highschool prom picture is sitting in it. He always told himself he'd get a frame for the copy but never got around to it.

It's Friday night, he got off work around seven and Jason came over an hour ago. Jared finished making dinner and they're both eating spaghetti and meatballs slowly. Jason is quiet as always, eats neat and methodical. He halves and halves his halves of meatballs and chews like it might be his last meal. Jared watches sometimes, fascinated by this quiet creature but he wants to hear more from him. Hear his life story. Anything Jason is willing to bestow upon him.

“So, look... I'm giving you space and... I'm trying to be understanding but I want to know about you, anything about you,” Jared says, spearing a meatball and bringing it to his mouth as he takes a bite. “I'd go for your life story but I know you won't give that up.”

Jason looks up, green eyes unnatural in the hanging light above the table. He swallows down a bite and licks crimson sauce from his lips. “... I... you don't want to know about me.”

“I do and maybe if you tell me, I can help you in some way,” Jared says with a soft smile.

Jason looks down at his plate and shrugs his shoulders. “Guess I could start with my childhood.”

Jared tilts his head at him, Jason's voice sounds so small with a hint of fear in it. He wonders why. “Okay, so start.”

Jason takes a deep breath. “I... I was severely abused throughout my childhood and teenage years, even into part of my adulthood.”
Jared purses his lips and nods. He's heard plenty of abuse stories working at a food pantry and homeless shelter for the last few years. It's nothing new, but his empathy for people who have suffered hasn't burnt out. So he keeps his face serious, let's Jason know he's listening. “Go on.”

“My dad did terrible things to me. Used to …. used to...,” Jason says, heaving a breath like he's about to have a panic attack.

“Hey, Hey... if you don't think you can tell me, then don't stress yourself,” Jared says soothingly, wanting to reach out.

Jason closes his eyes and shakes his head. “No, I want to tell someone. I've never told anyone.”

“I promise to not tell whatever you tell. Just let it out,” Jared says with a lopsided smile.

“He used to abuse me in every form possible. Emotionally, mentally, physically,” Jason starts, not meeting Jared's eyes. “I'll give you a few examples... sometimes he'd beat me for little things kids do, like leaving crayons out by accident. He'd hit me with a cane and leave bloody welts on my thighs and ass. It happened a lot. My mom tried to stop him at first but he ended up hitting her too and she never interfered again.”

Jared nods, eyebrows crinkling a little.

“It wasn't only canes, but switches, riding crops, whips, paddles. He kept all kinds of things on hand in order to keep me in perfect alignment. The way he wanted me to be but secretly I knew he just liked control, power. Over someone like me. Someone weak enough to let it happen,” Jason continues, sniffling. “Sometimes he'd make me go days without eating. There was this one time we had my baby cousin over so the nanny could watch him and he made me eat his shitty diaper. I didn't want to, I was hungry but not hungry enough to do something crazy like that. But he said if I ate it then he'd let me have real food. So I did and I threw up for two hours straight.. He still didn't let me eat.”

Jared stares in horror. He's heard a lot of stories, but he's never heard of anything like that. “You can't be serious.”

Jason looks up, presses his lips into a thin line. “Yeah, I am.”

“Don't tell me it gets worse,” Jared breathes, frowning.

“It does... he broke my leg once and my arm. My mom had to threaten to call the police if he didn't take me to the hospital and so he did. I had to lie about what happened. When I was thirteen, he started hitting me across my back with whips. I couldn't lay down in bed without hurting and then he started making me sleep on the floor. Took the bed from my room. I had a sleeping bag and sometimes a futon if he was feeling generous,” Jason says with a bitter laugh, even though Jared can see tears in his eyes, like he refuses to let them fall.

“Dude... no one ever reported this? Like ever?,” Jared asks, his mind boggled by the entire ordeal.
“No... my family was rich and my father was powerful. No one stood up to him even when they witnessed what was going on with me,” Jason says with a shrug. “I prayed to God every night but no answer ever came. So, I stopped caring about God and I stopped caring about myself and just let it happen. My self-worth plummeted to shit. It's still shit.”

“I'm sorry... but how did it continue into you being an adult? Didn't you get away?,” Jared asks, feeling his heart constrict in his chest.

“No. I didn't. I was too weak. I stayed because I was afraid of living on the streets and not having any money. My dad promised me someday he'd leave me his company and fortune, so I stayed,” Jason says licking his lips. “When I was eighteen. He brought the bed back into my room for my birthday but that night he brought in a new sword he had acquired from a friend and tied me to the bedposts. He slashed me across my chest seven times and stabbed me in the stomach. I thought I was going to die and I wanted to die at that point. My mom drove me to the hospital when she found me and he had punctured my liver, so they had to do surgery. She already lied for me. Said I had been stabbed walking the streets late at night and we didn't know who did it.”

“That's... wow... and you stayed? Jason. Seriously that's crazy. I would have run away. Told someone, that's beyond abuse, that's wicked and terrifying,” Jared says, unbelieving.

“Yeah, I know but I was weak and terrified and thought no one would care or believe me. I still feel that way. It's such an outlandish truth, that it seems like a lie but it really happened. It didn't stop until I was twenty five or so,” Jason goes on explaining.

Jared reaches across the table, taking Jason's hand in his as he squeezes. “I believe you, buddy. I really do. I just can't fathom how a human being can be someone's parent and betray their trust like that. Is that why you're on the streets? Because you finally ran away?”

Jason looks away, shrugging his shoulders. “Something like that.”

Jared can feel how warm Jason's hand is, it sends electricity up his arm and he has to pull away, because he doesn't know what that means. “You... your father deserved to be put in a prison. Forced to sleep on a concrete floor and have his meals served in a dirty bucket.”

“Yeah, you're right but...,” Jason trails off.

“But?,” Jared asks, eyebrow raised.

“But... no one else would have seen that way. He was a loved man, respected, revered. No one thought a bad thing about him. They would have thought I was lying or would have turned the other cheek, think I deserved it or something,” Jason tells him, looking back with a few stray tear tracks.

“Yeah, well, if I had been there? He would have be done away with. Seriously,” Jared says, shaking his head.

Jason nods. “Would have been nice to have a friend back then... but promise you won't tell anyone? Not even Amber? I don't want to be seen as weak. It's one reason I barely makes friends or even try to.”

“I won't tell a soul. Your secrets safe with me,” Jared says, wiping at his eyes a little. “And you're not weak, not at all. It takes a strong person to go through something like that. You're strong, dude. Stronger than I would have been.”

Jason wipes at his eyes again. “I'm sorry.”

“Hey, no... cry it all out. I understand,” Jared says with a small smile.

“Thanks,” Jason whispers, picking up his fork and returning to his meal.

“By the way,” Jared starts as Jason looks over at him, eyebrow quizzically raised. “Will you shave the damn beard? I'd like to see the person underneath it.”

Jason blinks. “No... I really don't want to.”

Jared sighs. “Okay, but I'm not giving up the quest to see you hairless like a shaved baby.”

Jason laughs, deep and rumbling. “I doubt I'll ever be as smooth as a baby.”

“Oh, but you can try at least,” Jared says with a laugh.

“Yeah, I can try,” Jason says with a solemn nod.

Jared just returns to his own meal and silence pervades them.

----------

His mom called to ask him about his work this week, along with how his new girlfriend is panning out and he was happy to report all was good. She said she hated to ask but she needed a loan and Jared never, ever wants his mom to feel like she needs money loaned to her, so he told her name a price and he'd wire it right away. She just breathed a sigh of relief and called him her precious boy. That she loves him so much. He did the wiring as soon as possible and even picked up a card with an amazon gift card so his mother could do some luxury shopping, since he knows she only asked for the loan for necessities.

He sends it to her in a mother card. Saying how much he loves her and without her he wouldn't be here. Adding his own note at the bottom about her being the best mother in the world with little x and o's. After he mails it out, he has a meeting with the board to discuss the next line of food items. He takes his grandmother's recipe journals, and leafs through them as he recites food items to the board. He speaks reverently as he waxes poetics about being in his grandmother's kitchen as a little boy and enjoying her sweets and hot food. The time he helped her make brownies at six and ended up spilling the batter all over himself and the floor. His mother had yelled at him but Grandma Padalecki had smiled sweetly at him and put him in the bath. He could see some bored but trying to be interested faces on some of his employees but he didn't feel embarrassed in sharing the story.

He goes home to an empty apartment, thinking of calling Amber, watching a couple movies and ordering pizza but those thoughts are interrupted by his phone ringing and Jason asking if he can come over, which is almost unusual for how early it is. He tidies up the house, even though he knows the man probably won't care. He throws on his pajamas, a red t-shirt and gray pajama pants and orders supreme extra large from Papa John's. The delivery comes before Jensen, and he tips ten dollars, receiving a grateful look from the delivery man.

As he takes the pizza to the living room and sets it on the coffee table, the door bell rings and he feels strangely excited at seeing Jason. After he shared a part of his life with him, he just feels... more connected to the man. More like he understands who and how he is. He smiles as he moves for the door, and looks through the peep hole to make sure. Jason stands there, looking down the hallway and the beard makes Jared want to shave it clean off, just to see the man's entire face.

He takes a deep breath and opens the door. Which seems to startle Jason, as he nearly jumps and faces Jared with wide eyes. Jared purses his lips, trying not to chuckle. “Sorry, didn't mean scare you.”

Jensen nods. “It's okay... I was just kinda...” He looks away and shrugs.

“Come on in. Pizzas in the living room and I can get us some drinks,” Jared says as he moves out of the way.

Jason ducks his head, reminding Jared of a shy teenage boy and a small smile graces his lips as he shuts the door. “I'm not really hungry.”

“More pizza for me then,” Jared says as he walks into the kitchen, and grabs himself a Dr. Pepper. He moves back into the living room, where Jensen is sitting on the couch, his hands on his knees as he seems to nervously wipe his hands back and forth, looking around. He seems especially antsy tonight.

Maybe it's because... he shakes his head. “Wanna watch a movie?”

Jason looks up and over, shaking his head. “Not if it's a horror.”

Jared snorts. “I have movies besides that.”

Jason smiles weakly. “Put something in then.”

He places his soda on the table, and bends down next to his dvd shelf and moves through the movies. Some of them he actually hasn't seen yet. “How about The End Of The Affair?”

“What's it about?,” Jason asks.

“I don't really know. An Affair?,” Jared says, amusement lacing his voice.
“Okay, that's fine,” Jensen murmurs.

Jared turns to look at him for a moment, and Jason is looking down at his hands knees. Jared wonders why he's so off center, so... closed off. More so than usual. He puts the dvd in, and sits down close to Jensen, allowing his arm to casually go over the back of the couch as he picks up the remote and presses play.

“Don't skip the previews,” Jason says quietly, eyes darting to the screen finally.

Jared raises his eyebrow. “Why?”

“I don't know, I've always liked them,” Jason says, rubbing his hand down his pant leg, looking at Jared briefly. “I like seeing things I can watch later.”

Jared nods absentmindedly. “Alright.”

They watch the previews and soon the movie is playing. As he eats slice after slice of pizza, Jared watches Jason as much as the film. He seems on edge, with what Jared guesses is worry and he wants to pry, get whatever is going on out of him but it's not his place to push and the man has already told him enough. If he trusts Jared, he's sure he will eventually be told.

As the storyline progresses, an intricate plot about an affair that is based on lies and deception. Jason seems even more on edge, he keeps looking at the left side of the room, like something is far more interesting and Jared can't help himself. “Is everything okay?”

Jason looks down and then over him. “Yeah, I'm fine but I'm not feeling this movie. Could we maybe... listen to some music?”

Admittedly, he's really into the movie and wants to find out what happens, how it ends but if his guest is uncomfortable and wants to do something else, he won't complain. “Sure.”

Jared turns it off and flips on the lamps, light flooding the room as he moves over to the stereo system, he sits on the floor, Indian style as he pulls out C.D after C.D to see what he feels like listening to. He looks back and Jason is standing there. He smiles softly. “Sit down, man.”

Jason nods jerkily and sits on the floor, his left leg underneath his right as it curls toward his body.

“I've got all kinds of music but nothing too new. Mostly stuff from the nineties, early two thousands. I don't care for much of the music today unless I'm in the car and need something to listen to, so I switch to a rock station,” Jared explains as he turns and places some of the c.ds in front of Jason.

Jason looks down and then picks up The Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness. “How about this?”

Jared grins. “Sounds good.” He takes it from him and puts both discs into the five disc changer, along with Bush's Sixteen Stone and Razorblade Suitcase, then Garbage's 2.0. As the album title comes on.

The song plays and Jason is still more quiet than he usually is. Jared feels awkward, like this is their first meeting instead of how things have been going for the last two months. “You want a beer?”

Jason is lost in the song, bopping his head a little and Jared raises his voice. “Jason!”

Jason's head snaps up and he goes. “I'm sorry. What?”

Jared chuckles. “Want a beer?”

Jason nods. “Yeah, that would be great.”

Jared gets up and comes back with two beers, handing one to his friend and sitting back down. He watches as Jason pops off the tab and takes a long drink, throat working and his eyes are drawn to the flex and wave of the muscles working. He looks away once he realizes what he's doing and tries not to read too deep into it as he starts talking. “The first time I heard Smashing Pumpkins, I was fourteen. I fell in love with Billy Corgin's voice and the band itself. I begged my mom to get me the only two cassettes they had in stores at the time, this and Adore. We couldn't afford it but I shamefully asked my grandmother and she went right out and bought them.”

Jason's eyes are on him, he has a hint of a smile as he listens, taking swigs of his beer.

“She even bought me a poster to go along with them. It was my first official poster. Before all I had was sports memorabilia,” Jared continues, then he looks down, eyes slightly clouded. “And then I did nothing but listen to them for hours upon hours, memorizing the lyrics and the pitches, like you always do when you find a new band to love.”

“I discovered them a little earlier than you. I was about eleven... and it was at a friend's house. One of the few friends I had back then, and like you, I fell in love with his voice, the music, the lyrics. It took awhile before I got a couple of their C.Ds but I did and I'd lay in my bed, the lights off and let it wash over me. Let my imagination run wild. It was escapism at it's best,” Jason says, his face a little brighter, and Jared knows it must be a good memory.

He envisions Jason laying in bed as a little boy, escaping from the horrors of his home for a little while and his body covered in bruises, his stomach churns in something a mix of sympathy and sadness but he nods, popping open the tab on his beer, taking a drink. He envisions. “They were my first concert too. I was sixteen and they were on tour with a new album. My grandma came to the rescue there too, even went with me. She also took my bestfriend at the time, Devon and it was so funny to watch this sixty seven year old woman, nodding her head to the music and telling us they were real groovy. My bestfriend thought she was the coolest grandmother there ever was and I had to agree. She really was...”

Jason smiles. “Wish I had, had a grandparent like that.”

“Everyone should have, she was the best. She died about two months later, heart attack. I was devastated, depressed for a little while but I had good memories of her because she made sure of that and it didn't hurt as bad since I could hold onto that.”

Jason's face is sympathetic as he speaks. “I'm sorry.”

Jared shakes his head. “It's fine. It's been twelve years. I'm happy. Got everything I want and while I wish my grandmother was still here, so I could pamper her and take care of her like she did me but I know she's in heaven and that's all that matters.”

Jason nods, tipping his head back as he finishes off his beer. “Can I have another one?”

Jared goes to get another and when he hands Jason the second, he notices his cheeks are flushed, face slightly red. He looks kinda... adorable. “You're more than welcome to get them yourself. My fridge is always open to people I like.” He gives a brilliant smile.

Jason ducks his head, nodding. “I'll keep that in mind.”

Jared keeps smiling at him. “What about you? What was your first concert?”

Jason bites his bottom lip, looking thoughtful. “Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

“You like RCHP?,” Jared asks, slightly impressed.

“Yeah, had a thing for Anthony Kiedis,” Jason says with a slight blush.

Jared laughs. “Really? I never thought he was that good looking for a dude.”

Jason chuckles nervously. “It was the hair and he kinda looked Native American. I've always been into Native Men since I had a crush on this boy named Nathan when I was about ten. He was Navajo, really long hair and the prettiest brown eyes. Four years older than me. We used to play super Nintendo together.”

“Ah, the days of the elderly gaming consoles,” Jared murmurs, a little surprised that Jason is gay. He thought he had a man crush on Anthony, but he's not put off, not at all and somehow that makes him uncomfortable because there's an unnamed feeling his chest.

Jason nods. “Anyway, first concert was Red Hot and that was how I got my first kiss and handjob.There was a boy next door that I often hung out with, not that he really liked me or anything because I wasn't a popular kid by any means but he liked me enough to invite me to go when he found out I loved the band. He took me, his girlfriend, and his two bestfriends. I almost didn't go because of my dad, but my mom talked him into it.”

Jared takes a drink of beer. “Continue this glorious story of adolescent fumblings.”

“So, yeah... it was when Californication came out. One of Daniel's bestfriends, Winston kept touching me all night. At one point he tried holding my hand during Scar Tissue and I just kinda batted him away. I still hadn't really... explored anything sexual, and I was embarrassed to be gay at the time. Thinking if my father ever found out, that would be the end of me.” Jason says, eyes downcast as he speaks. “But mostly it happened this way. I had to go to the bathroom and he decided to come with me. Soon as I washed my hands, he crowded up against me and backed me against the wall. Kissed me breathless, hardly gave me time to kiss back and then his hand was down my pants. I was kinda blown away, and he just smiled and told me he'd date me, but I was jail bait, so we'd keep it between us.”

Jared furrows his brows. “Weird... he should have at least given you a chance.”

Jason shrugs. “It was my first sexual experience, wasn't going to complain.”

Jared smirks. “True.”

Jason downs his beer and then gets up without saying a word, grabbing a third one and coming back. The conversation devolves into stories from their childhood. Jason doesn't seem to have a lot so he let's Jared go on with all his good memories without much interruption and somehow they end on the floor on their backs, staring up at the ceiling as the second disc plays. Jason is definitely drunk, Jared counted his eighth beer and he can't help thinking the man is running away from something.

“I love this song,” Jason whispers slightly slurred, as 1979's opening tickles their eardrums.

“Me too,” Jared whispers back.

“I lost my virginity to it,” Jason says with a an almost bitter laugh.

“This song?,” Jared says with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah...,” Jason trails off. “I was um... twenty five and desperate to just get it over with. Wanted to be normal, like everyone else and my escapades were far and few between.”

“Twenty five? Geez, you were repressed,” Jared laughs.

Jason smacks him lightly on the arm. “You'd be repressed too if you felt like no one would like you because...”

Jared nods solemnly. “I know.”

“Okay... so the guy was someone I knew for awhile. We had never really been, well I was never attracted to him but he was interested in me and he wanted it to be perfect for me. I told him I wasn't a girl but he ignored me and asked me what was one of my favorite songs. I told him this one and he invited me over at midnight, after he got off work and even lit candles. I was so fucking demeaned in a way because like I said, man, I just wasn't but he was gentle, took his time and made me like anal sex. So I shouldn't really bitch.”

“You had a good time, I'm happy,” Jared says almost sleepily.

“Yeah, I did,” Jason murmurs.

“The only songs I ever had sex to were creepy goth songs. Droning voices like they were in this infinite loop of pain and anguish, weird guitar riffs because I was dating a goth girl named Miranda. She always wanted to play music while we had sex and the only reason I put up with it was because she was really good at it but I realized soon enough that we were incompatible and and had nothing in common,” Jared says, shivering at the memory of black candles being lit and some dude's voice in the background, talking about horrors in the dark and paranoia.

Jason laughs then. “You poor soul. I would have strangled myself during sex.”

“I thought about it,” Jared chuckles.

It becomes hush between them, as Billy Corgin's voice singing about being someone's super queen. Jared closes his eyes, and let's the lyrics take him somewhere, imagining some man spinning tales of lost love while he looks at everyone around him objectively and sees them for what they are. He's surprised when he feels warmth pressed against his side. Opening his eyes, he turns them on Jason who is squashed up against him, breathing against his neck. “Jason. Seriously. You okay?”

Jason shakes his head. “Not really.”

“What's wrong?,” Jared asks, voice full of concern.

“I don't feel like talking about it right now,” He whispers, almost too low to hear.

Jared nods, blinking at the ceiling. “Whenever you want to, I'll listen.”

“I know. Thank you,” Jason says, placing a kiss against Jared's neck, and he doesn't know how to take it other than Jason's drunk and doesn't know what he's doing. “Can I just lay here with you for a little while?”

“Sure,” Jared murmurs as a an arm moves below his chest and he brings a hand up to lay on the soft yet rough hairs of Jason's forearm, brushing his fingers through it.

By the time Bush comes on, Jason is exhaling and inhaling softly against him, asleep and Jared, with his thoughts, slides into slumber too. Wondering what it'd be like to kiss the man who doesn't ask anything of him and only wants a friend. He's thought of guys before, sure, but he'd never actively pursed anyone of the same gender to find out if he'd like it but then his mind shifts to Amber and he knows he couldn't do that. He enjoys her company to much to screw that up.

----------

When they wake up in the morning, Jared gives Jason a new set of clothes he picked up for him and Jason just looked at him a bit apprehensively before taking them and heading toward the bathroom. Jared told him there were fresh razors in the closet but Jason obviously ignored that when he came out, with a full beard. His heart had sank at the sight, he wants to see the face of a the person he cares about, really see him but Jason is stubborn In a way that suggests he really is hiding from the world and even from him.

Jason left shortly after the shower and Jared headed to work. He has a second meeting with Sam Goody, and it goes to shit because they can't come to an agreement on pricing. He understands they're trying to get more bang for their buck but he has to make money too, and while it kinda pisses him off, he decides to drop another twenty cents and hope it goes well on the third meeting that's happening in two weeks.

It's a long day and he's exhausted by the end of it. He once again thinks of calling Amber and asking her if she wants to get together as he's going home but his cellphone rings as he stops at a red light. He glances down at the caller I.D and tilts his head. Jason calling again? Usually he doesn't come over all that often. He picks up and answers. “Hey J.”

There's a sudden hiccup over the line, a harsh breath. “Hey. Can I come over?” It sounds like he's crying.

Jared's voice softens. “I'll be home in fifteen minutes. If you can wait.” He turns the corner, having trouble paying attention to the phone and the conversation.

“I'll be...be there,” Jason ends on a hiccup as the phone clicks.

As Jared pulls into the parking lot, he gets his briefcase and walks up the two elevator to get to his pent house and when he comes out, looks down the hall. He sees Jason sitting on the floor, against his door with his head in his hands. He walks up slowly, bends down as he places a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, inside.”

Jason glances up, eyes red rimmed as he nods and then they're inside the apartment as Jared takes off his suit jacket and places it over the back of a kitchen chair. He loosens his dress shirt, undoing a few buttons and sets about making dinner as Jason sits at the island table quietly. “You okay with microwave ribs?”

“I'm not hungry,” Jason whispers, fidgeting in his chair.

“You didn't eat last night either,” Jared says with worry in his voice. “You gotta eat something.”

Jason looks at him a moment then nods.”

He heats up corn on the stove with half a stick of butter, sets everything on the table. They eat quietly. He notices that Jason only eats half a rib sandwich, before pushing it away as he rubs a hand against his chest like his heart hurts.

Jared takes another bite of his sandwich, chewing and sallowing as he speaks. “What's going on?”

Jason licks his lips. “My mom, she's dying.”

Jared frowns, nodding lightly. Somewhat surprised. “What's she dying from?”

Jason rubs a hand over his mouth. “Throat cancer. She's been smoking long before I was born and it was going to catch up to her sooner or later.”

“Did they catch it early?,” Jared dares to ask.

“No, it's in stage three but … she's starting treatments. We're hoping it works,” Jason says his voice slightly choked.

“I know it's none of my business... but why does it bother you so much? I figured after the way she denied you growing up, it wouldn't be... not that anyone deserves to die and especially not in a horrible way as cancer but she didn't treat you right, man,” Jared says, feeling bad that he's even saying such a thing because he doesn't know how he would feel about his own mother if she let abuse go on. Would he be able to forgive and move on?

“She wasn't there for me as a kid, no... but we started getting closer once my father died in a car crash five years ago. She always loved me, just didn't know how to help me,” Jason says quietly with a shrug. “I even live with her now, but it seems like... it seems like she's getting ripped away from me when I only just discovered how good we could be together as mother and son.”

Jared frowns further. “I understand and I'm sorry that … you don't seem to catch a break.” His heart aches for him, he doesn't know what to say or do to make this better.

“It's okay, I'll get through it. So will she,” Jason says, still rubbing at his chest. “Can I stay the night here?”

“You're always welcome to say,” Jared says with a sad smile.

“Thank you,” Jason says, hand twisting in his hoodie around his chest as he exhales and struggles breathing.

“I've got some nerve pills if you want them,” Jared says, wanting to reach across and stop his hand.

Jason shakes his head. “No, no pills. I'll be okay.”

Jared nods, trying not to worry as he finishes eating. They watch a couple movies, nothing sad, just ones to make Jason laugh. Liar Liar, and Ace Ventura. Jason laughs a few times but mostly he's somber and quiet through out. When they retreat to separate rooms for the night, he hugs Jason and the man clings to him, more calm than he was earlier and then they depart.

But Jared can't sleep. Thinking of all the way he could help Jason. Nothing really good comes to mind with someone who's possibly preparing to grieve and lose someone more than important to them after being robbed of their childhood unconditional love. He turns on his side, on his back and on his stomach but sleep doesn't come as he stares into the darkness, at his alarm clock as the red time passes into later and later. As he forces himself to close his eyes and beg sleep to claim him before his early morning, there's a knock on the door that nearly makes him jump out of his skin and he turns onto his back “I'm awake.”

The door opens and Jason stands there, looking like a six year old kid who just had a nightmare, afraid his parents might turn him away. He hears a sniffle as the man comes into the room awkwardly, shuffling his feet and holding his arm, afraid of rejection. “Can I sleep with you? I don't want to be alone.” It sounds almost odd coming from such a deep voice, the insecurity, the sadness.

Jared sits up a little and nods. “Climb on in.”

Jason moves slowly and crawls into bed, getting underneath the covers. As Jared lays back down, he puts his arm around him and pulls him close, chin resting against the top of his head. Jason exhales harshly and he runs a hand down his back, up underneath his shirt, feeling the warm skin there as he feels him shake and stifle a sob. “It's gonna be okay, J. It will. It'll be tough at first if anything happens but I'll pray that she makes it through. I bet a miracle pulls through.”

“I hope so,” Jason says, voice cracking. “I feel safe with you.”

“That's a good thing, right?,” Jared asks, having mixed emotions about it. Not that it's a bad thing to be safe.

“Yes, it's a wonderful thing. I never feel safe with anyone,” he admits, pressing his forehead against his collarbone. “I'm glad I have you in my life. You don't know how much it means to me to feel that way.”

Jared smiles, feeling his heart swells at the words. “I can take a gander.” His fingers trail and for some reason, he feels like he's falling a little bit in love, for being so strong despite his circumstances and all the things he's gone through.

Jason kisses his neck one more. “Someday, I'll try and make you feel this way too.”

Jared's hand stops for a second, flattening it against soft skin. “Maybe you already do.”

Jason laughs, it's almost self-deprecating. “I never make anyone feel that way.”

Jared tilts his head and kisses the top of his head, wondering if Jason will get mad but the he thinks of the neck kisses and thinks probably not. “You could.”

The smaller man sniffles again and sighs. “Yeah, I could.”

Conversation tapers off and Jason's breathing evens out. Jared finds himself falling asleep a second night, curled up with someone who barely talked to him a couple months ago, his hand stays underneath his shirt, against his back and he doesn't care that his arm feels like it's falling asleep as he drifts off.

Chapter Text

Jared parts from Jason for a few more days, he doesn't hear anything from him and the man can't help worrying about him. What he's going through, what's going on, why he hasn't attempted calling or even let him know if he's handling things okay. Jared probably worries more about people than he probably should, but his mama always said he cared more than his heart could ever really allow. But Jason is different in his opinion. There's something about him that makes him care, or maybe Jared just likes fixing broken things. Mostly he feels something for the man that can't quite be explained.

He has to put that all behind him though over the next week, because there's a meeting coming up with his rival Ackles Food Corp. Discussions involving trading off their famous family recipes and making a profit from them. Usually they battle it out in the food court but recently Jensen Ackles' sales department and CEO made a meeting date to attempt bridging the gap since the battles were getting a little too heated for family friendly foods. Jared is looking forward to seeing the man behind the company for the first time as well, they claim he's handsome and incredibly powerful in the way he speaks and moves. Someone who was raised into the market more so than Jared was but he doesn't let that deter him by a long shot.

It's the day of the meeting, and Jared stands in front of the bathroom mirror on the seventh floor men's bathroom, fiddling with his tie as Adrianne comes in shaking her head at him and spinning him around with her pregnant belly protruding from underneath her work shirt as he hands go to his tie. “Stop fretting about impressing some guy who ate from a silver spoon all his life. You worked hard to be where you are, it was just handed to him.”

Jared sighs. “I know, I know but he knows business, Addy. He'll smell fear like a damn snake or something.”

Adrianne laughs good naturely and shakes her head. “I somehow doubt that. I bet he's nicer than you're expecting and Nancy will be there to take notes. So just grab her hand under the table if you get scared.”

Jared rolls his eyes. “I'm not, ouch, that's too tight.”

“Sorry,” Adrianne murmurs as she loosens it up, patting it down to ensure it looks prim and proper. “You were saying?”

“I'm not scared. I... just, what if he's cut throat?,” Jared says with a frown.

“Maybe he is, but you drive a mean bargain and you're a hell of a man to do business with. He'll be the one running for the hills,” Adrianne says in a no nonsense voice.

Jared nods. “Okay, you're right. Nothing to be scared about.”

“I thought you weren't scared?,” Adrianne teases as he starts walking out.

“Shut up,” Jared yells back, walking out of the bathroom.

As soon as he enters the meeting room, he looks around to see those from Ackles Corp have arrived. He looks into each one of their faces as everyone greets and introduces themselves but none of them claim to be Jensen Ackles. “Jensen Ackles decided not to come today?”

Henry Ackles, The CEO and cousin of Jensen Ackles, shakes his head. “I'm sorry. He called in sick but he promises to be here next time.”

Jared feels a wave of disappointment but nods his head, as he smiles. “That's fine. Let's get this show on the road.”

The meeting goes well, but there's a niggling feeling in the back of his mind the rest of the day.

------------

Amber calls as soon as he gets home, they haven't seen each other in a few days and decide on getting together to make with the hanky panky. The sex is great, better than great and they lay together in bed, post bliss as Amber draws patterns on his chest and they talk about future plans for her art show and what he plans to do with the new recipes he'll be receiving from Ackles Corp. But something feels off, kinda like he's cheating on her and Jason both with the way he's starting to feel about the other man. It's a strange sensation in the back of his skull, like he should know better. Maybe it's because those few times he laid down and just slept with Jason felt somehow more intimate than simply having sex with anyone.

'I feel safe with you.' echoes through his head as Amber ambles out of bed and takes a shower to head home and get back to work on another sculpture. He decides to get in the shower with her to shake off the odd feeling and quickly washes up, to get out before she does and get in a pair of boxers and sweatpants when there's a knock at the door.

The shower turns off and he heads into the living room, opening the door to be greeted by Jason. He smiles. “Hey I was just... thinking about you.” After I had sex.. his mind helpfully adds and he tries to brush that aside.

Jason smiles back, but his eyes are kind of tight, like he's worrying. “Obviously I was too.”

They stand there awkwardly for a few seconds and Jared wonders if something has suddenly changed, or else he wouldn't be acting this weird with Jason. As he's about to tell him come inside, he smells a floral scent and turns to see Amber with her bag heading toward them. “You leaving, babe?”

“I'm heading on out,” She says as she leans up and kisses Jared on the cheek. “Have fun.”

She turns to Jason and does the same thing, squeezing him tight. “Take care of my baby. Won't you, Jas?”

Jason smiles nervously and nods. “Will do.”

When she's well out the door, Jared turns to look at Jason and then laughs. “Just come in already. You don't need an invitation.”

Jason's cheeks flame and he playfully shoots Jared a glare before moving inside.

It doesn't take them long before they're playing Gears of War 3, and Jared keeps trash talking but Jason seems too nervous too be doing that. He seems a little happier than he's been but there's still an aloof sadness about him, he's also a bit fidgety. After mysteriously losing a tenth time to Jason, he stands up and throws down his controller. “I'm getting chocolate milk. You want some?”

“Chocolate milk... I haven't had that in a long time,” Jason says with a laugh.

“Guess that means you'd like some,” Jared said airly as he struts away with a swish of his hips purposely, driving another laugh out of Jason. Which only causes Jared to smile at the beautiful sound.

He comes back in a few moments later, two tall frothy glasses of cold chocolate milk with straws and Jason puts down his controller to face him. He tentatively sips, making a deep mm sound and Jared wonders how his dick takes an interest when it just got laid not more than two hours ago.

He goes about sipping his when Jason speaks up. “Jared.”

“Yeah?,” Jared asks, looking up, meeting with deep green eyes.

“Would you be mad if I lied to you?,” Jason asks, tentative like his sips as he looks down.

Jared frowns a little, thinking it over. “It would depend on how big a lie but I'd still be your friend. Why?”

Jason shrugs, looking nervous again and just keeps drinking his milk.

After Jared changes the sheets, they crawl into bed. Jason seems to enjoy cuddling as they snuggle close together. “I never tell this to anyone but Chad but you deserve to know.”

“Know what?,” Jason questions sleepily.

“Having my own booming business, it's great. I've managed to do things my family wishes they had done and not that they're jealous or angry with me, they're proud of me but having money? It means I don't know who my real friends are half the time,” Jared admits softly.

Jason doesn't say anything.

“Listen to me. Complaining... the guy who has everything he could ask for and most people are out there struggling to make a living,” Jared says with a sigh. “You must think I'm stupid.”

“I'm your real friend. I promise,” Jason says softly as he tucks his head underneath Jared's chin.

“I know you are. You never ask me for anything but do you think it's stupid to worry about something like that? Think people care about me past the money?,” Jared asks, feeling mildly insecure.
Jason shakes his head. “It's a valid worry. I'd be worried too and I understand... trust me, I get it. I really do. It's not stupid.”

Jared strokes down his arm as he nods. “Thanks.”

They fall asleep like two cats intertwined at their tails.

------------

Jason's mother dies at 3:43 A.M of Respiratory lung failure, her name was Deanne and Jason can barely get the words out on the phone as he sobs. Jared's heart breaks with every sentence and he begs Jason to come over when he can, he'll be there for him. He promises. Eventually he calms down enough to sound like he died inside and Jared doesn't know what he wants more. For Jason to sound like a man who just lost his whole world or for him to sound like he won't go on for much longer.

He goes through the whole day with the man on his mind, worried like he usually does but now his worries are even more valid than they were before. His usual muffin tastes like ash in his mouth, as does his sugary coffee and everything else he eats. His stomach churns with worries that Jason will off himself and Jared will never know unless he reads the obituaries because they know nothing of each other beyond each other.

He stays on the phone with Amber through his lunch break, picking at his usual one pound burrito on a Tuesday and goes. “I just don't know. He sounded so broken.”

“I'll bake him some cookies,” Amber says, but Jared knows that will never be enough.

He wishes he was enough, but that's such arrogant thinking. “Thanks. I think it'll make him feel better to know others are thinking of him in his time of need.”

“He'll be fine, sweetheart. I know he will,” Amber murmurs softly, as if she's trying to comfort Jared too.

He nods, even though she can't see. “I hope so.”

He goes home and sits on his couch, lounging in a pair of sweats and his boxers. He sits through half a season of Hemlock Grove before there's a shy knock at the door and he's up off the couch, into the hallway and opening the door without even peering out the peep hole.

They stand there and stare at each other for a few moments, before Jared notices that Jason's eyes have unshed tears and he looks like someone just... jared feels his own eyes go moist and he sighs, opening his arms up wide as Jason moves forward and stumbles into them, wrapping his arms tight around Jared and squeezing him tight, so tight it almost hurts.

He starts sobbing and all Jared can do is hold onto him like a shaking willow tree in a storm.

“She was the only one who loved me unconditionally,” Jason gets out between sobs.

“That's not true, I do, Jas. I love you, man. I really do and it's unconditional. I'd do anything for you,” Jared admits, squeezing him tighter as he brushes a kiss over the top of his head.

Jason pulls back and looks up at him for a long moment, Jared can see the wheels turning but he isn't prepared when Jason attacks his mouth with a force like the willow tree is fighting back against the hurricane. He goes still, mostly surprised that the mouth on his is soft and plush, almost like a woman's with an edge of hardness you'd expect.

Jason pulls off, his face contorted and not pretty at all at the moment. Unattractive in it's crying at best but Jared sees something beautiful to behold in the sadness. “Please, do this for me. Please.” Jason begs so prettily, that Jared can't resist his cries for help even if it's a baser instinct.

Jared moves forward, hands eclipsing his jaw and cheek as he kisses him roughly. Anything to take the pain Jason is feeling away from him, he turns him around and starts moving him through the hallway toward his room. They pause to break the kiss, taking off clothes as they move along the way. Both naked by the time they reach the room and neither seem to care they've never been in such a state of undress around each other until now.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, his brain admits he wants Jason but not while he's crying and beside himself, making a decision that could potentially ruin their friendship. But Jared's heart aches with how much Jason needs him in his dire moment. He can't deny that, he could never deny that and he's pushing Jason back on the bed, and Jason's legs wrap around his waist, bringing him flush against Jason's body.

“I don't want to go in dry,” Jared says gruffly. “It'll hurt you.”

Jason just cries harder and shakes his head. “I don't care, I don't care. Make it hurt, Jared. Make it hurt. Please.”

Jared bites down on his lip and reaches between them to put the head of his cock at Jason's entrance, he eases in slow but Jason bucks against him almost wildly dragging him half way inside and then Jared abandons his need to be tender, and gives in. Shoving in so hard, that Jason cries out in shock.

“Yes, just like that, like that,” Jason pleads as Jared starts driving into him at a brutal pace.

It's mostly grunting and shocked cries as they move together, it even hurts Jared a little bit but mostly it feels good. It's sex, raw and brutal and painful and he thinks in this moment, he knows what it's like to be Jason. To understand his need to feel something other than the pain and turmoil he's lived in his life. His teeth are on Jason's throat as he feels the man spurt between them and he bites down hard enough to make Jason startle when a wolf goes for a deer's throat.

He gives into his submission and Jared leaves a bruise that's almost black with teeth marks included.

And as he comes deep inside the other man, someone he's come to trust and care for as much as anyone else in his life, if not more.

He doesn't regret it.

----------

The smell of bacon wakes him up, nostrils flaring at the scent. He groans and turns over in bed, feeling around for his bedmate but he's not there. He flips onto his back and stares at the ceiling, smiling a little but remembering in their haste to make Jason feel better, it was probably some huge mistake on Jason's part. He's going to regret what they did and then Jared will be used for something else other than money for once.

And then there's Amber. They're exclusive now and he cheated. He's never cheated in his life but Jason seems to make all his morals go out the window because he only feels half bad about the whole thing.

He sighs, he really doesn't want to over think anything.

Not this early.

He rolls out of bed and throws on his sweatpants from last night, following his nose into the kitchen where he sees Jason at the stove, and he can hear the sizzle of food hard at work. His eyes land on the boxers Jason is wearing and he can read Calvin Klein across the back, he blinks, eyebrow slightly raised. He knows the inns and outs of free food, free anything these days to the poor and he knows Calvin Klein doesn't give away free underwear.

But he ignores it in favor of smiling. “Good morning, starshine.”

Jason turns around, slight blush coloring his cheeks. “Mornin'.'

“You cooked me breakfast and everything? Were you going to serve it to me in bed?,” Jared asks, waggling his eyebrows as he takes a seat.

Jason rolls his eyes as he stacks two plates with eggs and bacon, placing a third plate of toast on the island table with a pitcher of juice. “I was thinking about it.”

“Maybe I should have stayed in there a little longer,” Jared murmurs with a smile.

Jason ducked his head and went about making himself a plate.

They ate in silence, stealing glances at each other every now and again. Jared knows last night was about other things altogether but he wonders if Jason has had feelings for him for awhile. He was only starting to wake up to his own. Maybe... he smiles at that, around his orange juice as he washes down his breakfast. He smiles even harder when Jason catches him staring and blushes deeply as he ducks his head.

After they're done eating, Jason cleans up the mess and puts the left overs in the oven before he's sitting across from Jared again. “I've got something to tell you. I feel terrible for keeping it from you and I can't keep it a secret any longer.”

Jared nods slowly, afraid of what he'll hear but if it's a confession of feelings, he thinks everything will be fine.

Jason swallows visibly. “My name isn't Jason.”

Jared's stomach bottoms out. “Okay...”

“My name is Jensen Ackles. Jensen Ackles of Ackles Food Corp. That's what I've been lying about, that and being homeless. Everything else was true,” Jason... god, Jason, Jensen, what the fuck. Jared's mind reels.

He just stares at the man across from him, shocked and numb from what hes being told. “Did you really just say what I think you said? Tell me you're lying!”

Jason shakes his head. “I'm not.”

And then anger comes, rageful, pissed off, all consuming anger as he stands up. Ready to throw a punch, do something, anything. “You motherfucker. You lied to me all this time.”

Jason's gone pale, very pale and he looks up at Jared with those big green doe eyes. Jared's eyes linger on the bruise he left on his neck, a mark of what they did, now sullied by bullshit. “Will you please... please hear me out on why I lied?”

“You used me,” Jared says deadly calm. “You made me feel sorry for you.”

“P,lease, Jared! There's a reason,” Jason says, tears filling his eyes.

“Fuck you, get out. I don't want your crocodile tears anywhere near me!,” Jared yells, making Jason jump.

Jason presses a hand to his mouth, breaking into a sob as he nods. The next few moments are a flurry of movement as Jason comes out of Jared's bedroom fully dressed.

He leaves almost soundlessly, save for a few sniffles and then Jared stands there, wondering what the hell just happened and why he feels like his heart just left with him but he's too pissed off to think straight and he feels like he's been stomped on enough for once. He doesn't want to see Jason or Jensen Ackles ever again in his life.