Title: Don’t Go Mistaking Paradise (1/2, COMPLETE)
Characters: Jared/Jensen, Sandy
Rating: R for language, sexual situations
Length: 12,600 words
Summary: AU. Jensen loves only two things in his life: drumming and his best friend Jared. Unfortunately, Jared, his head buried in his painting and a years old crush on a girl named Sandy, only knows about the drumming.
Disclaimer: These versions of Jared and Jensen don’t even exist, so clearly all events described are fictional and should be treated as such.
Author’s Note: This is my fic for reel_spn and is a very loose adaptation of the movie Some Kind of Wonderful. Basically, if you've seen the movie, you'll know what elements I've drawn into the fic and if you haven't seen it, it won't matter one bit. Big, big thanks to lostt1 for the hand-holding and for reading the fic over and giving me great feedback. And for just being her awesome self. The title is taken from a line in the movie. I did a little talking about my love for Some Kind of Wonderful here.
Part One | Part Two
Jared felt really out of place. And a little itchy. He tugged on his shirt, pulling the collar away from his neck, lessening the stranglehold of his equally spanking new tie in the process. He scanned the small room again as the people wandering it pointed and smiled at the paintings on the walls.
Jensen was late. As usual.
As if on cue, Jared heard the telltale heavy tread behind him. He closed his eyes, put a finger to his mouth and tapped it in thought as the steps approached. “I’m thinking...blue. No, green. Yes, definitely green.”
“Had it right the first time. What am I always telling you? Gotta go with your instincts, dude.”
Jared opened his eyes to find Jensen standing in front of him with yes, blue hair. It was close cut on the sides, tugged up into a short fauxhawk, the ends tipped in electric blue. He grinned. “Not bad.”
Jensen wasn’t exactly dressed for a gallery opening, but then, Jensen rarely dressed for anything but drumming. Jared looked him over, sighing in fond exasperation. Jensen cocked his head, looking Jared over at the same time. “Christ, didn’t know you were going into accounting if this art shit didn’t work out.”
“Glad to see you dressed for the occasion, too.”
Jensen tapped his blue and black tartan kilt with a drumstick that he had been idling spinning between his fingers. “Come on, man. A for effort. I fucking matched my kilt to my hair. That’s classy.” He tucked the loose stick alongside its mate in the leather belt looping around the plaid and clapped his hands together.
“Alright, let’s see some fucking art.”
Jared laughed and followed his best friend as they made the circuit of the room, stopping to look at each piece. He vaguely knew the artist as a local painter who had guest-taught his advanced composition class, but he’d never seen his paintings before. The small gallery was newly opened, walls fresh and white, hardwood floors glossy underfoot.
Jensen was standing in front of one large canvas, head tipping slowly to the side, mouth pursed in confusion. Jared laughed softly as he came to stand next to Jensen, mimicking his stance. “Uh, what are we doing?”
“’m trying to find the...” Jensen leaned forward to read the caption panel again. “...first kiss in...” He gestured broadly at the canvas, at its streaks of yellow and orange. “...this.”
Jared shrugged, glanced over the rough surface, over the vibrant colors. “Don’t think it’s quite that literal. Maybe he’s trying to capture, I don’t know, the way his first kiss felt. Like it lit him up inside or something.” He thought as a piece, it didn’t quite work, but he was willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
Jensen looked on the verge of scoffing, but paused, looked again. He scratched the back of his head, grimacing. “I guess. I don’t know, I like your stuff better. It looks real.”
“Thanks, Jensen. Now if I can just get anyone else to like it, I could make a living doing this instead of changing oil and rotating tires.” He looked wistfully around at the well-heeled crowd, at the way they sipped wine and chatted about art or their bank accounts or their weekend beach house or whatever people who came to art gallery openings chatted about. It made him feel even more out of place, knowing that not one of them probably had to scrub grease from under their fingernails before coming to the gallery tonight. He sighed, eyes making one more circuit and catching on a sight that made him double take.
She looked the same as high school, as far as he could tell. Tiny and curvy, long brown hair pouring down her back. She was in a skirt and a fitted blouse, as if she had just stepped away from her desk to come to the gallery. The perfect girl, one that actually caught his eye when most passed by unnoticed.
He glanced around, seeing where Jensen went, but his friend was giving his full attention to the hors d’oeuvres table. Jared chewed on his bottom lip, caught in indecision. He’d sat behind her in English, but they never spoke. Not really. Just nods and smiles and passing test papers. But here she was, glancing around, a bit of a lost look about her, fingers tight on a glass of wine.
It had been two years since high school. Surely Jared could do this.
He crossed the room before he lost his nerve.
"Um, hi." He bit back a swear at his incredibly smooth opening line.
Her smile was a bit forced, her tone indicating she had been hit on already tonight. “Hi. Listen, I’m waiting for someone, so I should just - "
Jared barreled forward before she could turn away. “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I went to high school with you. You’re...Sandy McCoy, right?”
She hesitated, eyes scanning Jared top to toe, and he could see her digging around in her memory. And coming up empty.
“Sat behind you in English?” Nothing. “Always had paint on my hands?”
She nodded, the barest flicker of recognition in her deep brown eyes. “Right, sure. It’s...Jason?”
“Jared. Jared Padalecki.” He stuck his hand out and she took it, her small fingers dwarfed by his.
“Right, of course. Jared.”
Jared shook her hand and didn’t immediately let go, noticing then she smelled delicate, like spring flowers. Her face, the heart shape and smooth lines, made him want to paint.
Sandy was looking up at him expectantly and Jared realized he’d just been standing there, holding her hand and staring at her. He dropped her hand, rubbed his own on his pants leg. “Are you - do you know the artist?”
She laughed. “No, I’m just supposed to meet someone here. He’s - this is more his thing than mine.”
“He’s an art buff?”
Sandy shrugged. “Not so much. It’s a networking thing, I think?”
Jared nodded, hands shoved deep in his pants pockets.
“Sandy. There you are.” A trim, fit blond man strolled up, eyes lazy and dismissive as they swept over Jared once and then moved back to Sandy. “Thought I told you to wait out front?”
Sandy darted a quick glance at Jared, obviously embarrassed. “I - you were late, so I thought I’d just -"
“Next time, wait out front, okay sweetheart?” His arm was looped heavy over her shoulders, blatantly possessive.
“Okay, Chad. Um, this is...wow, I...” She looked embarrassed, smiled up at Jared.
“Jared Padalecki.” He stuck out his hand, but the blond gave it a look, eyes clearly comparing Jared’s net worth to his own and finding it lacking.
“Chad Michael Murray.” He snagged a glass of wine off a passing tray and shrugged. “Sorry, man, got my hands full.” He tugged Sandy to him, making her nearly stumble. “Later.” They turned away, Sandy half-smiling back at Jared as a voice from behind him made Jared jump.
“Christ, who’s the asshole?”
Jared turned, found Jensen with his mouth half-full, frowning.
“Chad Michael Murray.”
“Murray.” Jensen paused, eyes narrowed. He snapped his fingers. “That little shit was in my class. His Dad owns half of the Valley or something.” Jensen continued. “And was that...?”
Jared nodded, voice softer. “Sandy McCoy.”
“Yeah. Thought so.” Jensen didn’t say anything and when Jared looked over, he caught an odd expression on Jensen’s face. Sad, almost. Upset. But then it was wiped away, replaced by something akin to boredom. A handful of seconds of silence passed and then Jensen piped up again. “Why’d you figure me for green tonight anyway?”
Laughing, Jared turned and lightly tapped the tips of Jensen’s fauxhawk. He shrugged. “I don’t know, exactly. Just thought it would be cool - green hair, green eyes.”
Those very green eyes looked over at him, cool and questioning, even as Jared wondered how he was going to find out more about Sandy. Wondered if she might be the one to get him over his shyness with girls, once and for all. He watched her stand with Chad as he loudly declaimed the work on the walls, gestures wild and words clearly derogatory.
“Man, this wine is shit, J-Dog. You wanna go get a decent drink?” Even as he finished his sentence, Jensen drained his glass, dropped it on a passing tray to the disgust of the waiter carrying it.
Jared shook his head, grinning, before grabbing Jensen by the shoulder and tugging him to the entrance. “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”
They were halfway down the stairs when Jared paused. “Did you just call me J-Dog?”
His only answer was a resounding laugh which echoed through the gallery as Jensen clattered down, boots thudding on every step.
Jensen slumped at his kit, sticks tapping idly on the snare, a rhythm slow and soothing to his frazzled nerves. His mind was wandering, flashes of Jared’s face when he was talking to Sandy appearing unbidden. He flinched, tapped a bit harder, faster. The only outlet for his frustration was right in front of him, the only steady in his life for as long as he could remember.
Besides Jared. Jared and his drums, that was it.
And just like that, he heard the cursory knock on his door and there was Jared, carrying a pizza box. In the middle of the cramped living room, most furniture supplanted by a huge drum set, Jensen felt a sudden rush when Jared flopped down on the couch, dropping the box on the table. It was a feeling he had grown used to over the years. Of things shifting into focus in what was turning into a painful clarity whenever Jared was around. All he ever wanted was in this room and he didn’t know how long he could keep it.
Jared nodded, gestured at the drums, and Jensen grinned. He kept going, building a rhythm of his own devising, with the kinds of flourishes and speed that he was known for on the local band circuit. He could see Jared nodding along, opening his messenger bag and flipping the pizza box open. The scent of tomato and bread and god, he hoped sausage, was making his mouth water. By the time he nailed the hi-hat, Jared was sitting back on the couch, one foot on the edge of the coffee table. He had a piece of pizza folded over in one hand, half-eaten, and a tattered sketchbook perched on his thighs.
Jensen dropped onto the couch with an exhale and reached forward to grab his own slice. He was mildly out of breath and he blamed it on the drumming instead of the proximity of Jared. It was an easy excuse.
Jared looked up. “You’re so fucking good, Jensen. You know that, right?”
Grinning, Jensen raised his voice a register and slapped Jared in the chest. “Oh, stop. You’ll make me blush.” He took a big bite, smacking his lips, catching a stray bit of sauce with his tongue.
Laughing softly to himself, Jared cut Jensen a sharp glance. “You always do that.” It sounded more serious than the tone would indicate and Jensen sits up a little.
“What?” Jensen hopped up and went into the kitchen, waiting for a reply.
“Brush off compliments. You really are amazing.”
Jensen opened the fridge door and leaned over, thankful for the rush of cold air to kill the blush that was actually creeping up his cheeks. It made his entire chest tighten with a weird anxiety whenever Jared told him how talented he was and how it was only a matter of time before he got discovered and so on and so on. He didn’t know how to believe that stuff, never got anything but stern silence from his Dad growing up and sighs of disappointment from his Mom every time he showed up with another drum, with another color hair, with another D on his report card.
And that was before they knew he was gay.
Jared, meanwhile, was a rock for him. His solid ground. And when Jensen finally, haltingly, told Jared he was gay on a sticky hot July day between sophomore and junior year, Jared had paused for all of thirty seconds before nodding. Looked over at Jensen and said, ‘Thanks for trusting me, man. It’s cool.’ And stole the ball from him, dunking over his stunned head. And if Jensen hadn’t been hopelessly, helplessly in love with Jared before that moment, he would have been from then on.
Taking a deep breath and grabbing two beers, Jensen stood up and shook it all back down where he kept it. Jared didn’t need to know. Accepting your best friend was gay was one thing. Accepting your best friend was gay and wanted to kiss you breathless, quite another.
Jensen came back in the room, shrugging. “Sorry. I mean...thanks.” He passed off one of the bottles and caught a glimpse of the page Jared was on in his sketchbook. A faint, smeared pencil sketch of none other than Sandy McCoy peered back up at him. His stomach thudded low and hard as he jerked his eyes up and stepped over Jared’s legs to sit back down on the couch.
He went for nonchalant, as hard as he could. “Whatcha got there?” Took a long, slow swallow of chilled beer.
Jared sat up, putting his bottle down on the coffee table, excitement coloring his voice. “After I saw Sandy last week, I went scrounging through my sketchbooks and found this one from high school, and it’s just like I remembered. I drew her a bunch of times in here.” Jared thumbed through the pages, flashes of pencil, charcoal going by quickly. Jensen pretended to be paying attention and was slightly surprised at how many times his own face went by, sometimes in watercolor on wrinkled pages, his phase of hot pink hair immortalized forever. But there she was, too.
Jensen had been stupidly jealous of her then, because she had Jared’s attention in a moony-eyed way Jensen never did. She was sweet and cute and had a smile that lit a room, according to Jared. She was bold and talkative and never nervous, which was all of the things Jared wanted to be in high school and never was. Of course, she also didn’t know Jared existed and he never got beyond the admiring from afar stage, which made it slightly easier for Jensen to handle.
But now. Now she had talked to Jared, which seemed to have re-awakened all of Jared’s fascination with her. As well as the ugly jealousy that lived inside Jensen, growing every time Jared looked at her picture, said her name with a smile on his face.
Draining the rest of his bottle and heading to the fridge for another one, Jensen braced himself for a painful walk down memory lane. He was going to need to be drunk if Jared’s dreamy smile was any clue.
Very, very drunk.
Six beers and a shot of Jager later, Jensen heard Jared mumbling something about a show. About him and a show. Jensen rubbed his eyes, as if that would help him hear better.
Jared was still talking, but since Jensen had totally missed the on-ramp for his thought, he grabbed Jared’s arm and shook it. “Wait, wait. Wait. What?”
Jared sputtered to a stop, and after taking a breath and looking over at Jensen, started laughing. And laughing. “You’re hammered. You are gone, man.”
Straightening up, wiping his mouth, Jensen tried to look put out. “Am not. You were just talking really...fast, like you do. Just. Slow down and start over.” Jensen rolled his hand impatiently as Jared slapped his hand down on Jensen’s shoulder, twisting him to face Jared on the couch.
Jared then put both hands on Jensen’s face to steady him, looking right into his eyes. One more beer and Jensen would never have been able to keep from diving forward to kiss Jared. Even so, he whimpered a little and hoped Jared wouldn’t notice.
“The guy whose art we saw last week?” Jared nodded, waited for Jensen to nod back. “He asked me to give him a painting for a show at his new art space. For new artists.” Jared was smiling now, and Jensen smiled back, though it faded when Jared finally let go of his face and reached for his beer.
Another five seconds and the words sifted down through the alcohol fog in Jensen’s mind and he whooped. “Son of a bitch, that’s fucking awesome! Why didn’t you say something?” He grabbed Jared’s hand, pulled him into a one-armed hug, a bit clumsily on the couch. And again, fought the very real urge to kiss him, hard and happy.
“I just did.” Jared smiled, returning the hug. “Now I just gotta come up with something by the end of the week. This week. Friday.”
Jensen felt the air go right out of him like a punctured balloon, his eyes falling to the sketchbook in Jared’s hand, open to an old sketch of Sandy. “Hence the sketchbook?” His head swam with beer and fresh, awful jealousy.
Jensen kept the smile on his face all the way to the bathroom, hands in fists as he stood inside it with his back to the door, head thumping lightly on the wood. He didn’t know how much longer he could do this. He was going to have to either tell Jared how he felt, which was impossible. Or stand by while Jared chased after Sandy, which felt equally impossible.
He was just so very screwed.
The noise and smell of the bar knocked Jared in the chest as he crossed the threshold and hopped down the short flight of stairs. The Cellar was familiar and welcoming in all its cruddy glory, with its cracked floors, graffiti-painted walls and questionable sanitation. Another big part of its charm was the bartender.
“Padalecki! Get your ass over here.” Jensen was wiping down the bar as he collected beer mugs with the other hand, the heavy glass clunking together. He was flushed, his sleeveless t-shirt darkened with sweat. “Thought you were never gonna show up. It’s been a goddamn madhouse tonight.”
Jared looked around at the crowd as he made his way to his stool at the end of the bar. A glass full of dark beer slid into his hand from about ten feet down the bar as he sat down. “Nice. Thanks, man.”
Jensen finished up his cleaning and came down to lean on the bar across from Jared. “Let me guess. Painting?”
He ducked his head, took a long, deep swallow, the strong, bitter taste coating his tongue and throat. “How’d you know?”
Jensen reached over and dragged one finger down Jared’s forearm. “Lucky guess.” He looked away quickly, dragged a tray of clean mugs from the kitchen and started hanging them on the rack above.
Jared twisted his arm up and looked at what turned out to be a long streak of blue paint. He laughed. “Yeah well, you know me.”
“That I do, my friend. That I do.”
Something in Jensen’s tone caught his notice, but that notice quickly shifted to the door as it slammed open and a set of legs appeared. Jared lifted his eyes and nearly choked on his next swallow of beer when the new arrival came into view.
“Sandy?” He blurted it out, standing up abruptly.
She looked startled at hearing her name, eyes wide, gaze swinging around the room. Jared got up, ignoring a snort of what sounded like disgust from behind him and scrambled over to her.
Coming a few more steps in, she couldn’t have looked more out of place, bright colors and designer labels blinking like a neon sign reading ‘I don’t belong here.’ Sandy looked behind her once and came further in, drawing up short when Jared arrived at her feet. He smiled at Gordo, who was working the door, and waved her in.
“Sandy. It’s, uh, Jared. From the art show last week?”
She smiled, confusion making way for relief. “Oh, of course, I remember you.” Her eyes cast behind her one more time. “I’m just - thought I’d get a drink.”
“You hang out here?” Jared’s eyebrows nearly disappeared under his hair.
She laughed, incredulous. “Here? No way, but I - " Realizing too late she’d put her foot directly in her mouth, she paused. “I was across the street at Cinco, but I left - " Jared cringed at the mention of the uber-trendy bar across the street. “Maybe I’ll get that drink now?”
Jared shrugged, decided that of course Sandy didn’t hang out here. She didn’t exactly blend. “Sure, right this way.”
They took seats next to each other at the bar and Jensen wandered over, dragging his rag down the bar. He nodded at Sandy, eyebrows lifted. “So, little lady, what can I get for ya? Apple-tini? Cosmo?”
Jared scowled at Jensen, but Jensen refused eye contact, leaning down as if he was hanging on Sandy’s every word.
“Oh, you know how to - you have Cosmos?” She looked vaguely hopeful, barely cringing when the music changed and guitars crashed over them in a wave of sound.
“Fresh out, actually. How ‘bout a beer?” He grinned, innocent as you please, but Jared knew better. They only served beer and shots at The Cellar. He pursed his lips in reprimand when Jensen caught his eye, but there was nothing in those familiar green eyes that helped him understand. He’d never actually seen Jensen look so blank, with such a curtain drawn over his normally expressive face. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear it was on purpose.
Sandy looked confused, but nodded. Tried out a smile. “Do you have something light?”
Jensen was winding up for an answer to that question when the door slammed open from above, smacking into the wall behind. Gordo was up off his stool in a second, tattoos rippling as he crossed his arms at the new arrival, perma-scowl in place.
“Don’t get your fucking panties twisted, dude. I’m looking for my girlfriend.” The voice was disturbingly familiar and Jared’s suspicions were confirmed when perfectly creased dress slacks appeared on the steps, followed shortly by the arrival of a heavily-gelled, thoroughly pissed Chad Michael Murray.
Jared stood up, put his hand on Gordo’s arm. “Got this one, buddy.” Reluctantly, Gordo settled back down, but he took a moment to slowly and carefully crack each knuckle of each hand as Chad approached. Jared pulled himself up to his full height and when Chad reached the bottom of the stairs, he had to look up to meet Jared’s eyes.
Chad’s eyes narrowed, no recognition there. “I fucking know you, asshole? Move out of the - Sandy. Goddamn it, come on.”
She froze on the stool, eyes sliding from Jensen to Jared and then to Chad. “Maybe I don’t want to.” Sandy’s nose wrinkled in defiance and Jared felt a flare of pride to go along with his newly discovered need to profoundly wrinkle Chad’s expensive linen shirt.
“Can we do this outside, baby?” Chad’s voice took on what he no doubt thought was a charming tone, but it only made Jared feel like his insides were coated with oil.
“Sounds like she’s not quite ready to leave.” Jared crossed his arms, wished he didn’t have paint smeared across one of them.
He heard and then saw Jensen hop up and swing over the bar, boots thudding to the ground behind Jared.
“Yeah, fuck off.” Jared grinned. Jensen had such a way with words.
Suddenly, he felt a soft hand on his arm, an even softer body slip by him. Sandy spat her words like nails. “Go home, Chad. Go home to your wife.”
Chad glanced around, and seeing no allies, softened his tone. “You know I’m gonna leave that bitch, honey. Please, let’s just...” He jerked his head for the door. When she didn’t move, he started backing up the stairs. “I’ll wait for you on the sidewalk. Valet’s already getting the car, so let’s go, alright?”
Sandy’s shoulders tightened and then settled. She sighed. “Fine. I’ll be there in a minute.” Her tone, crisp and cool, went unnoticed by Chad, but not by Jared. Chad jogged up the steps, letting the door slam behind him.
Jared opened his mouth to say something, but then he suddenly had Sandy standing directly in front of him, looking up. He swallowed, laughed nervously.
“Thanks for that, but it’s okay. He’s just...” She sighed again.
“Please tell me he’s not your boyfriend.”
Sandy pursed her lips. “Sometimes. When he’s not being a big jerk.”
Jensen muttered something behind him, but Jared didn’t have to ask to know the gist.
Jared felt his mouth go dry at the thought of what he was going to do next. He realized an audience was the last thing he needed. “I’ll walk you out, Sandy. If you’re sure you want to go? I can call you a cab?”
“Walking me out would be nice... Jared.” She smiled and went up ahead of him. At the top of the stairs, he reached around to push the door open, immediately saw Chad across the street, standing by a black BMW and waving Sandy over.
“Listen, Sandy...” He pushed forward recklessly. “You want to go out sometime? Dinner? I mean, only if Chad is really not your boyfriend. I wouldn’t ask if -”
Sandy paused in her departure and cut a quick glance at Chad, who was now leaning in to honk the horn. She frowned and then looked back at Jared, face smoothing. He had no idea what she was going to say, until suddenly she blurted, “Yes, sure. Okay. When?”
Surprised, he blurted out, “Friday night? I can - pick you up at -“
“Seven. I’m in the book.”
“Right, sure. That’s awesome, I’ll -“
“Bye, Jared...” She was gone in a flash, leaving Jared stunned and vaguely confused by her sudden agreement. He watched her stride purposefully across the street when it was clear, watched her and Chad get into it right there on the sidewalk, their words lost to him. She pointed at him and Jared stepped backward, startled. Chad glared at him and got in his car, and Sandy flagged down a cab.
When he headed back into The Cellar, Jared could barely contain his excitement. He started regaling Jensen with the story but right in the middle of it, Jensen broke a whole tray of mugs and swore something fierce. Jared ran around the edge of the bar to help.
“You alright, man?” He grabbed at Jensen’s hands, a flash of blood across the back of one alarming.
Jensen jerked back like he’d been burned and went to get the broom. “’m fine.”
Frowning, Jared decided to save the rest of the story for another time and started picking up the pieces.
The walls shook, the cheap construction no match for the musical force of Led Zeppelin pouring from Jensen’s speakers. Jensen was stripped down to a ripped black t-shirt and jeans, playing along to Moby Dick. He’d sell an organ - one of the ones he had two of - if he could play it like Bonham, but for now, he was just sweating out his frustration. His arms, his back were burning with effort, skin gleaming, bandanna tied around his forehead soaked. His muscles screamed, but he just played harder, the rhythmic pounding taking his mind off Jared, off the way Jared had looked at Sandy, off the way Jensen just kept wanting and wanting and never quite got.
Two fucking hours hanging out with Jared drinking tonight and a solid one and a half hours of it talking about Sandy.
He felt sweat trickle slow and steady down his back, sticking the cotton to his skin. He could feel the heat, the slow flush of anger, of jealousy and he tried to beat it out on his drum set with a fierce intensity.
But when he was done, when he was panting, sweat sliding down his temples, he could still see Jared in his mind’s eye. Still see Jared wanting something that wasn’t Jensen.
He threw his sticks across the room, the clatter as they hit the wall not nearly satisfying enough for the way his insides churned, for the way his heart thudded hard and sick in his chest.
He could only think of one way to make this hurt less and he was afraid the solution might just kill him, too.
Jared stood back, hands on hips, ignoring the fact that he had just smeared even more paint on his shirt, down his jeans. The mess on the canvas in front of him was his concern. It was already Tuesday night and he still had nothing worth giving to Keith for the show. Three days of painting at night and nothing to show for it. Not really. He glanced around his crowded garage slash studio and cringed. He didn’t want to take one of his old paintings, wrapped in paper against the walls. This had to be new and vibrant and fresh.
Sighing, he slumped back on the stool and eyed his current work critically. It was a good likeness of Sandy, done in bold colors. She filled the canvas, most of her face, her neck, half her body. It was a kind of portrait he was known for, something Keith had specifically remarked on. Jared’s ability to capture a person in their eyes, in their body language, in their hands. All on a piece of canvas bigger than life-size.
But this one just didn’t...it didn’t work. It was beautiful and crisp and her eyes were gorgeous, her hands delicately curled over each other, the lines of her body graceful curves. And yet.
Jared frowned, scanned it again. He grabbed a brush, dabbed at more light brown paint, went back to work on her eyes, tried to add light to them. He pushed his hair back from his face, felt his back ache, saw with bleary eyes the time pushing past 1 a.m. He stood up, paced the room, hands locked behind his head, eyes closing in frustration every time he looked at the painting from different distances, different angles.
It was beautiful. She was beautiful. But something was missing.
A decision made, Jared shifted the canvas over to the floor, leaned it against the wall. Fresh eyes tomorrow would help. But for now, his hands itched with the need to keep going, to find satisfaction. Grabbing another large blank canvas from his stash, he set it up on his over-sized easel, stood back and considered it.
Jared added fresh paint to his palette, blacks and browns and greens. Grabbed a pencil and started to sketch broadly, lines loose and true.
The crowd was getting restless, occasional shouts of impatience mixing with the typical sounds of a full bar. Jensen leaned against the raw brick wall behind the stage, one booted foot up and pressed against it. He tapped his sticks idly against the wall with one hand, eyes closed as he went through the set in his mind. Jensen could feel the energy building in his chest, the thumping of his heart, the rhythmic tapping of wood on brick. He smiled, waited, eyes closed against anything but the sounds and the way they spiraled his excitement level higher. Mike was late, but he wasn’t bothered.
Suddenly, a familiar whistle cracked his concentration. Fuck. Jared. It had been almost three days since he’d seen Jared and though the absence was only making his heart ache harder, he was determined that distance was the solution. That finding other people to spend time with might help him see a way past his feelings.
Problem was, Jared didn’t know about the master plan and wasn’t too keen on it, if the messages on Jensen’s phone were any indication. And Jensen was having trouble finding anyone he could be bothered to spend more than an hour with before he was ready to pull his hair out and/or put a drumstick where the sun didn’t shine on that person. He was ruined for other people. Or possibly anti-social. Either way, the current results on the experiment indicated a big fat failure.
Jared whistled again, the sound too piercing to ignore successfully. Jensen took a deep, deep breath and opened his eyes. Beyond the paltry stage lights shining down on him, he could see Jared in the back, tall and lean, towering over the crowd, as usual. He was propped against a column in the back, gave Jensen a wink and a thumbs up which made Jensen’s heart thump out of rhythm. He half-smiled back and then, thank god, Mike bounded onto the stage, grabbing the mike and screeching into it, making the crowd scream. Jensen grinned, pulled his jacket off and chucked it to the side, dropping to his stool in the same smooth movement. He ran his sticks over the entire kit, getting the feel in his hands. Getting the same rush he did every time stick hit skin.
Mike pointed at him, counted off, and it was on.
Jared waited by the back door to The Cellar, eyes on Jensen’s motorcycle parked in the alley. No way was Jensen eluding him tonight. As long as that bike didn’t move, his best friend was still lurking inside the bar somewhere. Jensen had slipped into the back room after the show, cheeks flushed, sweat dripping, arm raised in triumph and farewell. But Jared knew Jensen and he knew Jensen’s post-show routine. And it should mean that Jensen would push through the heavy metal door from the storage room and into this alley any goddamn second.
Jared tried to tamp down his irritation, his frustration. It was time to find out what in hell was up with his best friend. Jared was having this great week, excited about his date with Sandy, painting his heart out at night and working at the garage all day and he wanted to share the good stuff with Jensen.
That was before Jensen pulled his vanishing act the last few days. Working early evening shifts instead of closing at the bar. Not returning calls, not picking up his cell. Never at home when Jared came by.
Like clockwork, the metal door swung open with a clang and there he was.
To Jared’s surprise, Jensen jumped, even seemed to cringe. Jensen turned to face Jared in the poorly lit alley, eyes shadowed, but a smile quickly flashed in Jared’s direction.
“Oh hey, Jared. What’s up?”
Jared snorted. “What’s up?”
“Uh, yeah.” Jensen was fumbling with his keys now, making his way towards his bike.
“That’s a good question. Since you’ve been avoiding me for three days, I don’t know. What is up?” Jared had not planned on sounding like a jealous girlfriend, but now that he’d started, he couldn’t seem to stop. He was really bothered by this, and seeing Jensen only made that more apparent.
“Not avoiding you, man. Just been busy.” He had his back to Jared now, shoulders clearly tight. He didn’t sound right.
“Busy avoiding me.” Jared was fully aware he was being petulant, but not having Jensen around was making him feel out of sorts. He had found himself starting to talk several times the last few days, only to realize he was speaking to thin air.
“Dude, not everything’s about you, alright? I’ve had shit to do.”
Jared recoiled like he’d been slapped and took a step back. Jensen didn’t look back, just ducked into his jacket, head bowed forward. He stood by his bike, fingers fiddling with the handlebar.
“Wow, sorry, Jensen. I’ll just...leave you alone then.” Jared didn’t understand why he wasn’t more angry. If anything, he was, well, hurt. They had always dealt with the shit in their lives together and now, not only was Jensen not telling him what was wrong, he was telling Jared to basically go fuck himself. He turned to head down the alley, getting a few steps before he heard a sound behind him.
It was Jensen exhaling sharply, speaking low and soft. “’m sorry, Jared. It’s been...a bad week. I just didn’t want to be a shit to you while I was cranky and so I figured...” Jensen paused, pushed the toe of his boot against his front tire. “...better to just - "
“Disappear?” Jared turned back, cocked his head. “Asshole.”
Jensen’s head jerked up, eyes wide, whites visible in the dark. “What the fuck?”
“We’ve been best friends since sixth grade and you decide now that you don’t need to inflict your bad moods on me?” Jared’s grin was blinding, dimples and all. Stupid Jensen, being the big, bad martyr.
“Oh, hell. Shut up.” Jensen dug his hands into the pockets of his jacket, scowled at the ground.
“I mean, after all these long years of having to deal with all your bitching and moaning, now’s the time you cut me some slack? And it’s not even my birthday.”
Jensen didn’t say anything, but Jared stepped closer, took Jensen by the shoulder. “Seriously, man. You know I’m always here for you. Always.”
Jensen nodded, caught Jared’s eyes for a minute, then glanced away again.
“Tomorrow. Come by the garage and hang out. I miss you, you big jerk.” Jared tried not to sound pleading, but it was the truth. Both the missing him and the big jerk part. “We can just, y’know, hang out.” Which was Jared and Jensen code for the way they’d spent half their lives in each other’s space. Jared knew that Jensen recognized it for an open invitation to tell what was bugging him. Or not. Either way.
Jensen paused, swinging a leg over his bike, sticking the key into the ignition. He unlatched his helmet from the back and paused.
“I’ll come by after lunch, dumbass.”
And before Jared could even smile at the tone of wry affection, the helmet was on, the engine was roaring to life and Jensen pulled away down the alley and out of sight.