It was a typical Texas summer night, hot and close. Condensation was running down the beer bottle in his hand, making the glass slick as he tipped it up for a swallow. Jared shifted, pushed at the blankets underneath them. The truck bed was still quite hard underneath, but the padding helped.
Only four weeks until Jensen was leaving town, and they hadn't talked about it. Jared ached, just thinking of the idea of Jensen pulling away in that fancy new car of his, of leaving Jared behind. He didn't know what to do about it, and Jensen wasn't talking, so he let it sit there between them.
Not tonight, though. Tonight they were getting out of town, and he was dragging Jensen away from his studies, and he'd finished his summer class earlier this week. His savings account was filling up again with money for another class, but it would be awhile. Jared tried not to let that get to him. Not to think about how the world was flying past him, and he was plodding along at a snail's pace no matter how hard he worked. Seeing kids coming into town, finishing school and leaving again had been novel when he was younger, but now that he was their age? It stung.
Jensen's words broke into his thoughts, reminded him why they were out here. To relax. Jared secretly hoped for more, but he wasn't pushing. They'd been much more physical since that day it the peach orchard, but it hadn't gone too far yet. Not all the way.
Jensen was looking up at the sky, stars thrown across it. "Nice out here. I'm not sure I've ever been this far out of town since I got here." Jensen was sitting with his back against the back window of the cab, legs stretching out in front of him like Jared. He put his beer back in the cooler and stretched and Jared watched him do it. Watched the way his shirt pulled tight and up and then skimmed his eyes down his legs to his bare feet as they curled for a moment and then relaxed.
"Misha went home for a few weeks. Says Connecticut is a lot more pleasant in the summer."
"I bet he said it in a much more colorful way."
"There may have been some cursing the great state of Texas, yes. So, yeah. He's gone. Took off yesterday. Got the house all to myself." Jensen's hands were fidgeting now.
Jared paused, replayed the conversation and Jensen's little nervous ramble. "Are you - are you asking me to take you home?"
"What? No. I don't want to go home."
"Oh, I mean. Yes. With you. I want you to come home with me."
"Oh. Oh. Really?"
Jensen turned and looked at him, and the heat outside had nothing on that look. "Yeah. Really."
Jared threw himself over the side of the truckbed in one big clambering move. "Grab the blankets. Let's roll." The sound of Jensen laughing as he climbed out of the bed, blankets in tow, set Jared's skin buzzing.
The anticipation only built as he broke the speed limit - by a lot - on the way back to town, pausing where he knew the cops sometimes parked and forcing himself to slow down for those stretches. He couldn't afford the time or money of a speeding ticket right now. Much less the lecture from one of the many cops that knew him and his family.
Finally, finally, they were parked in front of Jensen's. Jensen had barely spoken the whole trip, body held tense, eyes locked on the road.
"You okay? We don't have to - "
"We do. I mean, we don't." Jensen turned. The look was still there. "But I want to. God, I want to."
The trip from the truck to Jensen's bedroom passed in a blur, but Jared was sure he'd find the bruises the next day from the trip up the stairs, the doorknob in his back, that table that got between the two of them and Jensen's room.
He pushed Jensen down onto the bed, on his back and followed him quickly. Jared slid in between Jensen's legs, pressed his own aching dick against Jensen's, both still confined in their shorts. They groaned, almost in sync. "You sure? God, are you sure, Jensen?" He'd been wanting Jensen for so long, but Jensen was a careful person. He looked at things carefully. He decided carefully, balancing and weighing the choices. Jared needed to know Jensen had reached some kind of decision.
"Jared. I'm sure. I'm sure. Now come on, take these off." His hands grappled with Jared's shorts, pushing and shoving at the fabric. Jared got up from the bed, and shoved them down, yanked his t-shirt over his head, and looked. He looked at Jensen from head to toe, at him rumpled and sweaty and he thought he loved - liked him a lot - shit, he didn't know anymore - the careful, put together Jensen, but this one? He might like this one even more. Or maybe he just liked that they both existed inside this one person, and that Jared got to see it all.
Speaking of seeing it all. Jensen was staring at him, eyes raking him from head to toe, a physical caress. "Fuck, you're so gorgeous," Jensen didn't swear as much as the average college student, so Jared knew he had him spinning. His blood was boiling, it was so hot to see Jensen slip to the edge of control.
"I want you, Jensen. I want you. I'm - " He kneeled on the edge of the bed, between Jensen's feet. He was overwhelmed, excited, hands shaking with it.
"You can have me, Jay." The words were delivered solid and sure.
Jensen started to undo his own shorts, and Jared watched for a few breaths, before launching into action. He pulled the fabric down Jensen's legs, tossed it to the side. He leaned over him, felt the heat radiating up, and pushed the t-shirt up and over his head. "Can I?" Jared's hand rested flat on Jensen's stomach, fingertips caught in the waistband.
Jensen exhaled, nodded. "Yes, god. Hurry."
Shaking his head, Jared smiled down at him. "No way in hell am I going to hurry." He tugged Jensen's boxers lower and off, immediately ducking down to drag his tongue across the head of Jensen's cock.
Jensen lurched halfway up, catching himself on his elbows, abs gone tight. He didn't say anything, but the look he gave pretty much gave Jared all the encouragement he needed. He went down again, took Jensen's dick in hand and sucked just on the head, the movement eliciting a choked whimper from Jensen. He ran his tongue across the slit, tasting, testing. Opened his mouth and took his cock in, a few inches at a time.
He felt Jensen's hips go abruptly still, the little rocking motions halted. Jared flicked a glance up at his face, saw the nerves apparent. Still sucking hard, he pulled up and off. "You can move, Jensen. I want you to." He arched an eyebrow and angled Jensen's dick back into his mouth, waited until Jensen pushed up a little, hesitant. Jared swallowed another inch in reply, and Jensen swore under his breath.
Jared kept to his word, driving Jensen slowly crazy like he had all night just to make him come with his lips and tongue and hands. By the time Jensen gasped out his orgasm, coming down Jared's throat, they were both sweating, bodies sliding against each other on Jensen's smooth sheets.
Breathing hard, hand resting on Jared's head even as Jared rested his cheek against Jensen's thigh, Jensen's words broke through the sound of them breathing and set Jared on fire.
"Don't stop now, Jay. I want more. Want you to - to fuck me."
Jared lifted his head, raked his eyes up Jensen's body to meet his. "Don't tease me, Jensen. You serious? Because Jesus Christ, I - you serious?"
"Like a heart attack." He smirked a little, and Jared's self-control was no match for a naked, smirking Jensen underneath him. No way was he going to be able to take this slow, when he felt a touch away from coming already.
"The fact that I let you get away with such lame remarks just shows how much I like you." Jared moved up Jensen's body, parting Jensen's legs with his own, slow grinding his dick against Jensen's.
The sharp inhale told him Jensen's dick was still sensitive, and he rocked against it again.
"Shit, I figured this..." Jensen rolled his hips up, locked his legs around Jared's thighs and put delicious pressure on Jared's incredibly hard dick. "...was doing a pretty good job of showing how much you like me."
Jared counted backwards from ten to keep from coming right then, planted his hands on either side of Jensen's face and stared down at him. He saw a drop of sweat fall from his face and onto Jensen's shoulder, reached over with one thumb to rub it into the heated skin, followed his hand with his mouth, kissing across the broad freckled skin."You have stuff?"
"Bedside table." Jensen flapped a hand that direction and Jared leaned over, retrieved lube and a condom, relieved that Jensen had been ready. Guess he wasn't the only one who'd been thinking about this for awhile. The thought made him grin, made him like the boy below him even more.
Jared kissed Jensen, hard and serious, as he worked him open with careful fingers, swallowed every gasp and swear, felt the moment Jensen's muscles started to give way, felt Jensen give up the power to him. Before too long, he had the condom on, poised to push into Jensen for the first time, and he held that moment as long as he could, eyes locked on Jensen's for what felt like minutes on end.
He opened his mouth to speak, maybe to ask if Jensen was ready, but it occurred to Jared that here in Jensen's bed, with Jensen looking up at him like that, the warm summer night coming in through the open window, he didn't need to say anything.
His breath stuttered as he found his way in, as he worked inside Jensen's heat, one push, one stroke at a time. Jensen's head pressed back into the pillow, his fingers tightly curled on Jared's biceps. Even in this room with very little light to go by, he could see the flushed skin of Jensen's chest, the color working its way up his neck.
When he was all the way in, Jared held very still, his pulse in his throat, the sensations almost overwhelming. With all the willpower he had, he did not move for a few seconds, but leaned down, grabbed Jensen's mouth for a loose, messy kiss. Jensen's grip on him tightened, and the push of Jensen's hips against him told him that Jensen was now half-hard again, even through this first push.
It made him hotter than he could deal with, and Jared had to move. He bit Jensen's bottom lip, rolled the soft flesh in his teeth as he pulled almost all the way out and thrust back in. He felt the hot exhale of breath from Jensen, and he moved his mouth to Jensen's neck, tasting the sweat and heat as he thrust again.
He murmured into Jensen's ear, words that turned into nonsense and Jensen answered back with moans and a body rising to meet his as he thrust in over and over, the sound of skin meeting skin sharp, the slick of sweat easing their movements together.
The whole night caught up to Jared, and he knew he wasn't going to make it much longer, and told Jensen so in hot, hurried words. Jensen's hands took ahold of Jared's face, pulled him up and in front of him, and they were looking at each other when Jared went still, hips jerking once, twice and then he was coming, heat flooding through him like a wave. He didn't want to move, didn't want to breathe, didn't want to stop.
Jensen's hands moved to push Jared's hair off his forehead, and he felt the wet strands clinging to his skin.
"Shit. That was amazing." Jensen's words broke into the quiet, made it easier to breathe suddenly.
Everything was going to be perfect, Jared knew it now. He kissed Jensen, hard and fast, laughter following the kisses. "Yeah, it damn well was. Hope I didn't wear you out."
Jensen's hips against his assured him there was plenty more where that came from. The night was young.
The next day, Jensen was in his lab, reading a recent study his genetics professor had sent him when he got the ding of new email. When he saw it was from Jared, his hand immediately started to sweat, a thrill skating up his back as he clicked to open it. He read the email, and it sent him soaring, but ironically, it was the way it made him feel that undid Jensen.
Sorry for being sappy, but I can't stop smiling and it's all because of you. I think I made old Mrs. Fisher blush by grinning at her when I served her breakfast.
Did I ever tell you about the first day I saw you? You came into the diner and you barely made eye contact, but I couldn't stop looking. You read the entire time, and I gave you way too much coffee just so I could walk by.
That sounds kind of creepy, doesn't it? Sorry. I'm trying to say I liked you before I even knew you. And now I do know you. And it's better. It's everything.
See you soon.
It was hours later, and he'd gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.
Jensen hated himself. He hated himself more than he had ever hated anyone. But it all hurt too much. His head was spinning, way too much emotion tied up in his logic, and his brain didn't know how to process it. It didn't have parameters for emotion, constants or controls or graphs that helped him figure it out.
He'd gone to Josh for help, for advice, like always. And what Josh told him was making him want to throw up. But after thinking about it, he thought maybe Josh was right. He tried to parse it all out with logic. To see it from a distance instead of up close.
Jared hadn't said anything about Jensen leaving. He'd even mentioned the next class he was saving for at Barnes. He was still working all three of his jobs, still making plans with his family, talking to Danni about a trip to Florida next year.
Next year. Next year, Jensen would be in California, and Jared would apparently still be here, and it hurt too much. He couldn't do it. He had to make this hurt stop.
It didn't make Jared's face when he told him any easier to bear.
"You're serious? You're breaking up with me?"
"I'm sorry. Jared, I'm sorry. I don't. I'm leaving soon and you're not. It - it's time." Jensen wasn't explaining it well. Jared's hands were tight on the wheel of his truck, jaw twitching with something like anger.
But when he turned to look at Jensen, it was nothing but hurt on his face. "I thought you - I thought we had something here, Jensen. I mean, last night. I - I don't understand. I don't."
"I know. I'm sorry." Jensen looked at his hands, heart breaking. Josh's words cycled in his head. End it now, before it gets messy, Jensen. Better for both of you. He'd always taken his brother's word for most things, and in most things, he'd been right.
As Jared sat silently, stone-faced and radiating pain and upset, Jensen didn't think this felt right. It was already messy. Already too late.
"It's not that I don't care about you, Jared. I do. Maybe too much."
"Too much? What does that even mean? Jensen. Don't do this."
Jensen's voice broke as he fumbled for the door handle. He felt tears, unexpected hot tears, surging. He had to go before Jared saw him cry. "I have to. Please. Don't hate me, Jared." He just about fell out of the truck, ran for his own car in the driveway and got in, hating himself the whole way. He backed out and drove, and he didn't look back. He drove until the car almost ran out of gas and he was in a part of the countryside he didn't even recognize. All Jensen saw was Jared's hurt face, all he could feel was Jared's hands on him, Jared's kisses, the smiles he gave him without expecting anything back.
He couldn't bear the idea of Jared hating him. He definitely hated himself enough for both of them. This was one emotion he was coming to know far too well.
"What do you mean, he broke up with you? You two were all moony-eyed just the other day. What happened?" Danneel slid onto the barstool at the counter of JT's and Jared turned to pull her a Coke from the fountain. When he turned back, he flinched at the look in her eyes. He knew he looked bad. He felt worse.
He'd called and called. Sent texts and emails. No response from Jensen. All he wanted was a little more explanation than 'I'm sorry' and 'I can't.' And instead he'd had radio silence. The look in Jensen's eyes when he looked over at him was what he couldn't let go of. It wasn't the look of someone who stopped caring. It was the look of someone in pain.
"I don't know, Danni. He just said he was leaving and I wasn't, and he had to end it." He wiped at the counter, trying to avoid her eyes.
"He's scared, Jared." He kept wiping the counter. "Jared, that particular section of the counter has never been so clean. Look at me." She put her hand on the back of his.
Jared looked up. "It doesn't matter. I've tried everything. I have some pride, Danni. Seven unreturned phone calls. That's my limit. I texted him, he doesn't reply. I can't get him to even talk to me. What am I supposed to do, stand outside his window waving a boombox in the air?"
She snapped her fingers, startling him. "That's it!"
"Come with me." She grabbed his hand, face determined.
Jared held his hands out in confusion. "I'm working, Danni."
"Mr. P, can I take Jared? Please?" Danneel stood up off the barstool and smiled her most winning smile. Even Jared knew it was very winning.
His Dad poked his head through the window. "You got a plan that'll make him stop moping, Danneel? He's scaring the customers."
"What? It's true. Just go with her. It's late, Tish can handle it." His Dad looked at him, kindness there. Jared nodded.
"Thanks, Mr. P! Wish us luck!"
Jared realized he didn't really have a choice at this point, outnumbered as he was, so he put down his rag, pulled off his apron and headed out, in tow behind Danni.
Jensen was lying on his bed, amazed at what a stupid person he was. He had been sure a few weeks ago that he was very smart, but recent events begged to differ. Breaking up with Jared had not magically made him able to concentrate on his studies again. It had not set his carefully ordered life back on its predestined track. No, breaking up with Jared had him lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling and wishing he had a spine. Convinced he'd just ruined the best thing that had ever happened to him, and trying to believe it was the right thing to do. That Jared didn't see him the same way he now saw himself.
He'd been listening to the college radio station streaming from his laptop for awhile. Anything to help distract him. It didn't occur to him that Danni's show was starting until her familiar voice cut through his thoughts. He sat up a little when she started.
"Evenin', folks. It's Danni, back with another edition of Say Anything to liven up your Sunday night." She paused, and then continued, voice serious. "But before I take your calls, I've got to take care of one thing. I don't normally play any music on the show, as you know, but a good friend of mine recently got his heart broken, and he wanted to play this song for the jerk - okay, the person - who did the breaking."
Jensen sat all the way up, heart racing.
Danneel continued, "If you're listening, hear this: He loves you. Yeah, he should've gotten a chance to say that one for the first time in person, but sometimes life is shitty that way. This song's for that someone out there. The one who's still loved, even though I'm personally not sure he's earned it."
The music started, the words familiar.
Jensen's heart crawled up into his throat as he realized what he was hearing. It was that song. From way back on their first date. He'd heard it on the radio and Jared remembered. Jensen covered his mouth, listening hard. Jared wouldn't have played the song just because they'd shared it that night. He knew that song. Jensen barely breathed for the first minute, hanging on every word, on words about love and finally, words about loss, raw and real.
Cause you and I both loved
What you and I spoke of
And others just read of...
And then the ending came and he sat there, immovable.
...I'm almost finally, finally, out of words.
The song didn't normally make him cry.
"You're a jerk, Jensen Ackles."
Jensen started in his chair, looked up. The library was quiet and he'd fled there in a vain attempt to find some peace. Peace from Misha's questions and the guilty face in the mirror and the text messages and phone messages and just all of it.
So, of course, that's where Katie found him. Katie, whose eyes were flashing fiercely at him, hands on lean hips. She towered over him, glowering.
"Katie, uh. Hi?" Jensen cringed. He'd always been a little scared of Katie. She was whipsmart and really funny, but if you crossed her, she'd turn that sharp tongue on you in a flash. He'd seen it happen, especially when she got phone calls from Jesse, her ex. With Danni and Katie together, it was sometimes like good cop, bad cop. Katie was always bad cop.
"Yes, I will sit down. Thanks for asking." She pulled up the chair next to him, and reached over, shutting his book.
"I was - hey!"
She kept her hand on the cover of the book and turned to face him. "Let me repeat. You. Are. A. Jerk." Katie flipped her long blonde ponytail over one shoulder. "Do you have a defense for your jerkdom?"
"No, you're pretty much dead on." Jensen nodded, and her eyes widened a fraction.
"Then why'd you do it? Why would you take one of the only decent guys in all of Barnes, Texas and do that to him? It's unfair enough to me and the other girls here that he's gay, but then he has to fall for you and I have to watch him and his heart get incinerated."
"Katie. It's - I didn't want to hurt Jared. I thought I was doing the right thing. So, that it would hurt less when I left. It was only going to get harder." He trailed off. He'd never tried the argument out loud to anyone. It didn't really ring true.
"That's bullshit. She narrowed her eyes, tracked his expression. "You want to know what I think?"
Jensen was squirming in his seat now. He was genuinely scared to know what Katie thought. "Um, I thought Danni was the one who gave advice?"
"You're afraid. You care about him, and you're afraid of it. People think just because Jesse broke my heart into a million tiny bitter pieces that I don't understand love. But I do. He didn't, but I do. But that's beside the point. Jared? Jared knows from love. I'd be lucky - hell, you were damn lucky to have him. And you'd not only be a jerk, you'd be an utter moron to let him go."
Jensen was rooted to his chair. She was scarily insightful. And good-hearted under it all. "But I'm the one who's leaving."
"You think he wouldn't go with you?" She narrowed her eyes.
He shook his head. "He's got his whole life here, he wouldn't -"
She sighed, exasperated. "Did you ask?"
"Well. No." Jensen was starting to feel like an utter moron. It was pretty unsettling.
"Jensen, you can't decide for him. That's your fear talking. You're afraid he'd say no, so you just didn't give him a chance. You ran away before he could. The way you know the answer to a question? Is by asking." She sat back a little. "And here I heard you were smart."
"But I'm just a guy he met this summer, why would he -"
"First? Don't be a guy. Be a man. And second? Stop assuming you know what Jared wants or what he'll do. Jared is the only one who knows those things. So, put on your big boy underpants, and ask." She slapped one hand on the table and got up again.
Jensen turned from Katie's gaze, let her words sink in. He still wasn't sure what he should do, but she did have some good points. He shifted back to her, looked up.
"You know, you're a really good friend to Jared." He hesitated, dipping his toes in dangerous waters. "And Katie? This Jesse was clearly an asshole to let you go. I don't want to be like that. Just. Don't give up. You'll find better. Or he'll find you."
"Yeah, yeah. And hey, don't let my softer side get out. I've got a rep to protect." She pointed at him, and clapped him on the shoulder soundly. But she smiled as he left.
Jensen blinked. That was her softer side?
"s not worth it, I'm telling you! Just find some random dick and suck it and you'll feel better. Hell, buy me some more shots and my dick might be available." Chad grabbed at his crotch and Jared thunked his head down on the bar.
"Wow, generous of you. I'll keep that in mind." Jared muttered into the bar even as he realized there was something sticky on it, and sat back up. "God, this was a bad idea." He was wasted, and he was sitting at a party at Mack's with Chad of all people. Earlier, when Chad called and said he'd heard Jared got his nuts kicked in and to come out and drink his troubles away, it had sounded pretty good. The stunt on Danni's show had resulted in one text from Jensen. I'm sorry. Yeah, well, so was Jared. He'd texted back: Delete that email I sent you. You know the one. Please. Jared was sorry he'd let his heart get stomped on. Sorry he'd believed Jensen cared about him. Sorry he still cared about Jensen, like a pathetic loser.
And now, very sorry he'd agreed to come out with Chad. Who was still talking.
"...because I've had people dump me tons of times, Jay, and it's no big deal. Their problem. They can't handle the Chaddinator and all my kickassedness. They want someone who calls them all the time, who buys 'em shit and remembers anniversaries or some such. I can't be remembering all of that. 's all the same, Jared. Dicks or chicks. All fucking crazy. Just get off, and move on. That's my motto."
"I gotta go." Jared pushed his chair back from the bar.
"What, we're just gettin' started! Don't be a pussy! You don't even like pussy." Chad's voice was getting louder, and Jared could feel the attention turning towards them, even in the din of Mack's on a Saturday night.
He slapped Chad on the back, shaking his head. The idea that Chad had good advice, that Chad's way of dealing with love would help. Crazy.
Jared nodded to Mack, who was manning his own bar in the backroom of his house, and headed out. When he reached the cool night air in Mack's backyard, he fumbled his phone from his pocket and pressed three.
"Jaybird, where are you? Did Chad get you arrested?" Danni had highly disapproved of this plan.
"This was a mistake." Jared leaned against the wall of the house. "Come get me at Mack's?"
"No, shit. And yeah, be there in ten."
"Thanks, Danni." He flipped his phone closed, and he leaned there to wait. He had nowhere else to be, anyway.
Jensen stabbed at the ice in his tea, frowning.
"What did that tea ever do to you, Jensen?" Josh's voice was partly amused, but a little annoyed. Jensen had not been the best conversationalist this afternoon. He was at his monthly Sunday lunch with Josh, at a place halfway between Barnes and San Antonio. Usually they spent the whole time comparing notes on work and research. Last month, they'd had a fight over Jared taking so much of Jensen's time and Jensen's future. Jensen had stormed out.
This month, he could barely look at his brother. He'd ruined his relationship with Jared because he thought Josh was steering him down the right path. It didn't feel like he was on the right path now. It just hurt. He just hurt.
"Are you happy, Josh?"
"What?" Josh sipped his Coke, looked confused.
"Your life. Does it make you happy?" Jensen was starting to figure this out. His brain, good for most things, but shit at figuring out emotions, had been stewing on this problem for awhile.
"Of course. I'm the youngest head of research in the history of the hospital. It's what I've worked my whole life for." Josh took a bite of his chicken and chewed, mouth still screwed up. He swallowed. "Where is this coming from?"
"You're successful and brilliant and you've always been amazing at setting goals and reaching them through hard work, Josh. I've always admired that about you." Jensen felt the momentum of his thoughts pushing him forward. "I've spent my life modeling myself after you. Seeing how you approached a problem, found a solution and built on it."
"Well, I don't know what brought all of this on, but thanks, I -"
"I'm not convinced it's the right path, though. Or at least, not all of it." Jensen continued. "I think there's more in life." Josh had poured his entire life into his research, and he was helping people, and making progress on curing diseases that needed curing. But he didn't share that with anyone. He didn't come home to a smiling face or date someone more than a few times. He met women at hospital functions and he took them out for drinks. It never got serious. And that would be his choice, if it made him happy.
Jensen looked closely at his big brother. Jensen had seen what truly happy looked like now. He knew what someone who was loved looked like now. He'd seen it in the mirror.
"You're not happy. You don't - you don't put yourself out there and risk it. Love takes risks, it turns out. And time. You have to stick your neck out and see what happens. Have to carve time out of your life and learn about theirs. And if you find it? It makes you really fucking happy, Josh."
Josh stared at him, fork frozen in midair.
"And I had it, and I threw it away." He stood up, nearly shaking with his realization. "I have to go, Josh. I know you meant well, but I have to go."
"Jensen?" Josh half-rose, face confused. Jensen would call him later. They'd talk. Right now he had someone else he needed to see.
The bell above the door rang cheerily. Jared didn't even turn around, hardly feeling cheery at the moment. Something was wrong with the shake machine. Every time he put a cup in it to mix, the cup slipped out and ice cream went everywhere. He was on his second t-shirt and third apron. And no customers were approaching the counter. Partly because of the way Jared was muttering to himself and banging the machine and partly the threat of an ice cream shower.
He heard murmurs behind him, thought he heard Katie hiss his name, but he just waved behind him. "Just a sec. I'll be right -"
He stopped, hand on the cold cup. His finger slipped on the switch and he ended up with vanilla ice cream down the front of his apron. "Shit, shit, shit." He turned it off and backed away, and he heard the unmistakable giggle of one Katie Cassidy. He glared in her general direction, but she just pointed the source of the voice that made him douse himself in ice cream. Again.
Jensen laughed nervously. "Okay, so we've got that out of the way." He looked over his shoulder, got a pair of thumbs up from the Danni and Katie booth. When he turned back, his face was pale and tense, and he ran his hands over the smooth countertop before clearing his throat.
Jared pulled his apron off and laid it on the counter. He crossed his arms on his chest, and he waited. He didn't let on that seeing Jensen there in front of him made him have to cross his arms to keep from grabbing him. He didn't show that Jensen standing there looking at him with that soft look in his eyes was threatening Jared's resolve to not let his pain show. To not show how much he missed Jensen.
"So. It's come to my attention that I'm an idiot."
"Amen!" Danni shushed Katie down, and Jensen chuckled softly.
Even before she told me I was, I had a feeling I might be." Jensen ran one hand across his mouth, looked up at Jared, eyes sharp and green like grass.
Jared felt his resolve weakening. He wanted to be mad. Furious. But he wasn't. He just wanted Jensen.
"Can I ask you a question?" Jensen looked so hopeful, Jared couldn't say no. He had to hear the question. He gave a quick nod.
"I'm leaving for California in three weeks, Jared. I want to know - " Jensen stopped, took a deep breath and let it out. "I want to know if you'll come with me." He stopped, waited. "To California. With me."
"You said that part already." Jared felt the smile. It started somewhere deep inside, like the sun coming up over the horizon, warming him slowly.
"I know. I'm nervous." Jensen cocked his head a little bit and Jared heard Danni muffling Katie once again.
"Well. Jensen. That's a big decision. I'm going to have to weigh the pros and cons, make a list. Maybe a chart of some kind. You're good at that analytical stuff, maybe you could work something up for me. I mean, it's not like I can just - y'know - "
Jared reached across the counter with both hands, cupped Jensen's head and pulled him across until their mouths met. He kissed him, ignored the whoops and catcalls from the other occupants of the diner, and focused on the startled breath that came from Jensen, followed by Jensen's hands coming up to grab his forearms. Jensen kissed him back, fiercely. They went at it for half a minute without coming up for air, and when they broke apart, their mouths were still only a breath apart.
"Are you - you're saying yes?" Jensen was breathless, eyes dilated, face flushed.
"I'm saying hell yes, Jensen." And he kissed him again.
There had been things to work out. Details. Jared had to tell his momma, promise to write and call and visit. She had cried and his Dad had gotten a bit stern about Jared being sure of his decision, but it really just meant he loved him, that he'd miss him. Once he told them he was transferring his credits to UCLA, that he'd already found a job at the UCLA bookstore, that he really wanted to do this, without a safety net, his father nodded. The hug he'd given had taken his breath away, as did the words in his ear. Proud of you, Jared.
Katie and Danni had thrown him the biggest party Barnes had seen in quite some time, and Chad somehow ended up naked on Main Street (not for the first time) and Katie was caught making out with Misha on the front porch of their house. It was quite the evening.
Jared knew, with that same solid certainty that had steered him towards Jensen, that this was his chance to escape the easy confines of Barnes. To see what it was like when no one in town had known you since you were a toddler, instead of everyone in town.
He looked over at Jensen as they shoved the last box into the back of his SUV. He'd handed the keys of his truck off to his sister, Meghan just yesterday. His motorcycle was firmly strapped to the trailer behind them.
Jared stood there behind the car after the tailgate was closed and Jensen had gone in for one last check of the place. They had six days to get to California and moved in to their new apartment before Jensen started his fellowship. And Jared had two weeks to find his way around a new city, a new campus, a new everything. He could barely contain the anticipation, the nerves, the potential he felt.
He put his hands on his hips and looked around the street, at familiar sidewalk and houses. He knew the route they'd take down Main Street so he could get a look at his old haunts. And then they'd head west into the country and onwards.
Jensen came down the steps, and he smiled. It lit him up, inside and out.
"You ready?" Jensen went around to the driver's door. The question was fully loaded and they both knew it.
"Definitely." Jared stood there, hand on the door handle a moment longer.
And maybe they'd be living in Barnes again one day. Jensen had mentioned teaching, and Wilson College would be a good fit. So, yeah. They might be back. Or they might not. But Jared felt pretty sure that whatever it was, they'd do it together.
With one last look around, he got in the car.
continue to art, soundtrack & notes
return to master post
Thanks for reading! ♥