Jensen parks his car in the first parking space he sees and gets out, gasping slightly as he’s hit with icy rain. He jogs up to the front door of the apartment building and lets himself in. The lobby is silent and bright, and all Jensen can hear is the harsh sound of his own breathing as he waits for the elevator.
By the time he reaches Josh and Jeff’s door, tears are streaming down his face and his breath is coming in hitching little sobs. He pounds on the door, belatedly realizing that it’s the middle of a Friday night and Josh might not even be home.
Thankfully, the door opens but its Jeff he sees. Jensen just looks up and lets Jeff see his broken expression because he doesn’t know what else to do.
“Josh!” Jeff calls instantly, and reaches out to pull Jensen into the apartment.
“What?” Josh replies absently as he comes out of his bedroom, looking sleepy. But he’s instantly alert when he sees Jensen, green eyes widening as he rushes over. “Holy shit, Jen. What happened?”
“Jared – “ He starts, and he’s trying so hard not to cry that he can barely get the words out. He can hardly believe his own ears when he finally does. “We – we broke up.”
“What?” Josh and Jeff shout in unison, and Josh runs forward to pull Jensen into a hug. Jensen clings desperately to his big brother, unashamed by the way he’s crying into his neck. Josh has been there for everything – every skinned knee, every little league tryout, every time he worked himself up over coming out to his family, every time he got upset by his feelings for Jared – Josh was there.
“What happened?” Josh asks, uncaring of the rainwater seeping onto his clothes from Jensen’s. “Jensen, tell me.”
“We fought earlier,” Jensen says, and he spots Jeff’s expression – concerned, like he’s wondering how his own brother is doing. He even glances towards the phone and bites his lip, fingers twitching like he isn’t sure what to do. “He slept with her – she was in our room – and I, I told him – it’s over.”
“Jensen, calm down,” Josh says, pulling out of the hug to grip Jensen by the shoulders and look him in the eye. “You aren’t making any sense.”
“He slept with Jessica!” Jensen shouts, taking in huge gulps of air, chest aching. Josh’s expression hardens dangerously, but Jeff shakes his head in disbelief.
“Jared wouldn’t do that,” Jeff says adamantly, and Jensen just laughs bitterly. He doesn’t want to think it’s possible either, but deep down he’s been afraid of this since day one.
“She was in our room in the middle of the night, in his clothes!” Jensen cries, and Josh leads him over to the sofa, exchanging a dark look with Jeff.
Jensen sobs into his hands, and Josh’s grip is firm on his shoulder. He’s never felt such pain in his life. It feels like something is ripping his body apart – like something is tearing out his heart.
Jared trails water down the hall, rubber soles slipping in his own puddles as he runs down the narrow hallway. He’s amazingly sober now, and his breath hitches as he tries to breathe normally.
It’s not working.
He nearly skids past Josh and Jeff’s door, hand curling into a fist and pounding hard just above the slightly crooked three. There is silence. But he knows Jensen is here. His car is in the parking lot.
He pounds again, blinking away hot tears and icy rain. His hair and clothes are plastered to his body and he’s shivering violently. His legs ache from running here and he’s three seconds from bursting into tears.
Suddenly, the door opens. Jared lifts his head, eyes widening as he is grabbed by the shoulders and slammed painfully against the wall opposite the door. All the air is sucked from his lungs and he takes a gasping breath. Josh is in his face, fists curled in the front of his sopping wet tee shirt. He’s never seen Josh look this angry, not once in his entire life. He swallows, suddenly afraid.
“What the hell did I tell you, Jared?” Josh yells, pulling Jared forward only to slam him back again. Jared’s skull connects painfully with the wall and he blinks the stars from his eyes. “What did I fucking tell you when this started, huh?”
Jared remembers that conversation with stunning clarity. Josh’s tone was light but his eyes were serious, and Jared was so fucking confident when Josh told him not to fuck this up.
“I told you not to do this if you weren’t completely fucking serious about him,” Josh yells, and Jared’s shoes slip in the puddle he’s creating. Josh is pretty much the only thing holding him up at this point. “I told you not to fucking hurt him.”
“Josh!” He can hear Jeff’s voice but Jared’s eyes are locked on Josh’s, tears blurring his vision as he tries to find the words to say. Josh’s fist connects with his eye, sudden and solid, and Jared struggles, cowering in his grip. “Damn it, Josh! Let him the fuck go.”
Josh is pulled off of him and Jared slips to the floor. He can feel blood seeping down his temple; courtesy of the ring Josh always wears. Josh struggles against Jeff’s grip for a moment before he slumps in defeat, sending one last hateful glare Jared’s way before storming inside.
“What the fuck, Jared?” Jeff asks, tone angry even as he extends a hand to help Jared up. “Shit, your eye’s bleeding.”
“I need to talk to him,” Jared pleads, voice rough and broken. “It wasn’t what it looked like, I fucking swear.”
“To Jenny it looked like you fucked some girl in the room you two share,” Jeff replies, looking torn and confused, warring between alliances. He has no idea who is right and who is wrong, and there is anguish in his eyes when he looks at his little brother.
“I need to fucking talk to him!” Jared yells, trying to push past Jeff and into the apartment. Jeff holds him back and Jared cries out in frustration, pushing against his big brother as tears stream down his cheeks.
“No, Jensen, fuck him!” He can hear Josh saying, and Jared lifts his head.
“Move,” Jensen says, soft and low. Jeff sighs and moves out of the way. He and Josh back up a bit, trying not to impose but not wanting to stray too far.
“Jen,” Jared starts. Jensen is soaking wet and shaking, his eyes swollen and red. His hair is plastered to his face and his skin is pale, freckles standing out in stark relief. He looks completely fucking devastated, betrayed. His bottom lip is trembling and a fresh set of tears spill out of his eyes.
Jared hates himself, hates himself fully and completely and so fucking much it hurts almost as much as the way Jensen is looking at him.
“It’s over,” Jensen finally says, sounding wrecked and sucking in a shuddering breath. “Just – just go away and leave me alone.”
And then the door shuts, and Jared is all alone in the hall.
He doesn’t know how long he stands there, pounding on the brown door separating him from Jensen. After awhile he gives up, walking down the stairs and shaking his head like he isn’t sure what just happened – like he doesn’t quite believe it.
He manages to call Chad for a ride, sitting out on a curb in the rain while he waits. He suddenly feels a hand on his shoulder, warmth seeping into his skin. He doesn’t even need to look to know it’s not the person he wants to see. He would know Jensen’s touch anywhere.
“Get out of the rain, kid,” Jeff says, but Jared just sits there. Jeff heaves a sigh and sits down next to him, shivering from the cold. Jared just stares blankly ahead, blinking against the rain. He winces slightly when Jeff touches the cut next to his eye. The whole area is tender, but that pain is unimportant. Jeff presses a warm, wet rag to his eye and Jared sniffles.
“Do you need a ride?” Jeff asks, lifting Jared’s hand so he can hold the rag himself. He pulls it away to look at it, momentarily surprised by the amount of blood on it. He shakes his head and pushes the towel back to his face.
“Called Chad,” Jared rasps. He finally turns to look at Jeff, taking in his concerned expression. The rain is relentless, and Jeff is already soaked to the bone. “I didn’t do it.”
“Doesn’t sound like you,” Jeff says, pulling Jared into a one-armed hug. Chad pulls up then, his shitty car idling at the curb. “Chad’s here. Just go get some sleep, and I’ll be there in the morning, okay?”
Jared nods, getting to his feet and stumbling a little as he reaches the car door. He slides into the passenger seat, and Chad’s eyes widen at the sight of him. Jeff leans in to look at Chad.
“You stay with him, okay?” Jeff says, and Chad just nods dumbly.
“What the fuck, dude?” Chad asks once Jeff turns to head inside. “What’s going on?”
Jared’s face is completely blank for one long second, and then Chad puts his hand on Jared’s back and he breaks down, pain ripping through his chest as he lets out a sob. He leans forward and rests his forehead against the dashboard and he doesn’t even care what he looks like, crying like this. He shakes with the force of it, cries so hard he can’t even breathe.
“I – I think it’s over,” he gets out between gasping breaths. “It’s over.”
At Chad’s sudden and sharp intake of breath, Jared just cries harder.
It’s still raining when Jared wakes up, and it’s slightly fitting.
He just lies there, listening to the unrelenting patter of the heavy rain on his window. His whole body aches and he’s exhausted to the core. His eye is swollen, that much is obvious when he tries to blink. He hears a soft snore and turns to see Chad asleep on Jensen’s bed.
Jared stares back up at the ceiling. So it wasn’t just a terrible dream.
There’s a sudden knock at the door, and Jared sits up so fast his head spins. Rationally, he knows it isn’t Jensen, but he still can’t help but feel disappointed when he opens the door to find Jeff on the other side.
He’s barely aware of his brain telling him to move before he’s hugging Jeff, resting his chin on Jeff’s shoulder. They’re nowhere near as touchy-feely as Jensen and Josh and he stopped seeking physical comfort from his big brother around the time he hit puberty, but he has no problem with taking it now. Jeff just pats his back before pulling away, leading them into the room.
“You look terrible,” is the first thing that Jeff says, pushing Jared back by the shoulders to look at him. Jared almost wants to laugh. He’d bet money on the fact that he looks amazing compared to how he feels. “Go take a shower.”
“Jeff, I – “ Jared tries, and his voice is little more than a squeak. His throat is sore from the amount of yelling and crying he did yesterday. He actually doesn’t think he’s ever cried so much in his entire life.
“Go,” Jeff commands, setting a McDonald’s bag down before digging through his dresser and throwing some clothes at him. “I’ll be here when you get back.”
Jared sighs and grabs a towel. It’s really no use arguing. As much as he’d like to just crawl into bed and suffocate himself with his own pillow, he knows Jeff won’t let him. Stupid big brother instincts kicking in.
He feels a tiny bit better after the shower, and after getting dressed he steps up to the mirror to examine his eye. The cut is red and tender looking, already starting to scab over. His eye is bruised and swollen, and it hurts when he blinks. He doesn’t really blame Josh. It’s far less than he would have deserved, had he actually done what Jensen apparently accused him of.
And that’s the part that hurts almost more than anything – that Jensen would believe him capable of something like that. While it’s true that the evidence definitely was stacked against him, he hoped that Jensen would have trusted him enough to at least hear him out.
When he gets back into the room, Chad is sitting up on Jensen’s bed eating an Egg McMuffin. He’s got pillow lines on his face and he looks at Jared with concern. Jared drops his towel and accepts the bag Jeff holds out to him. He doesn’t really feel like eating, but he hasn’t done so since lunchtime yesterday and his stomach is sort of demanding it.
“So, tell me what happened,” Jeff says once Jared sits on his bed and takes a bite of his sandwich. The bite seems extremely difficult to swallow all of a sudden.
“Jensen thinks I cheated on him,” Jared says, and wow, that’s hard to say. Jeff just nods and Chad watches him wearily as he picks at his own breakfast.
“Why?” Jeff responds, leaning forward in the desk chair to rest his elbows on his knees. Jared takes a deep breath and squeezes his eyes shut, ignoring the stinging pull of the cut in his eyebrow when he does so.
“We got in this stupid fight yesterday,” he starts, voice trembling slightly. “He left and I went to the floor party and got drunk, because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I should have gone and found him. I should’ve –”
“Jared, “Jeff interrupts gently, and Jared sighs. The sandwich in his hand is completely unappealing, but he forces himself to take another bite.
“I spilled my drink on Jessica and she said she was locked out of her room so I gave her a shirt. Then I said I was going to bed and she found it appropriate to just fucking hang out in here I guess, and that’s apparently when Jensen came back. I didn’t do anything with her,” Jared says desperately, looking up at Jeff’s sympathetic expression. “I wouldn’t.”
“I know,” Jeff says, sighing and running his fingers through his hair. “So should he.”
“But he doesn’t,” Jared sighs, cheeks heating up. He refuses to cry again, but the pain in his chest makes it hard to breathe.
“Jensen has issues,” Jeff says, not unkindly. “And I get it, I do. You go so long thinking you’ll never have something, that when you finally get it you can’t believe it’s real.”
“When we were fighting, he asked me why I didn’t just go find some girl,” Jared says miserably. “And I told him that I didn’t know. I’m so fucking stupid.”
“People say fucked up shit in the heat of battle,” Jeff says flippantly. “Doesn’t mean that’s how they really feel.”
“Is he okay?” Jared asks, leaning forward. “I mean, how is he doing?”
“Not gonna lie,” Jeff says, huffing out a sigh. “He’s pretty broken up. Josh called in reinforcements.” He turns the chair slightly to look at Chad. “Don’t think you’ll be seein’ your girl for awhile.” Chad just shrugs one shoulder and swallows the last of his sandwich.
“Didn’t bank on it,” he replies. “I planned on staying here, at least for the weekend.”
Jared wonders what Sandy and Sophia are thinking, if they hate him. He’s startled out of his thoughts by the alarm on his phone going off. He groans and runs his hand over his face.
“Fuck. I have a shift at Ed’s in an hour,” Jared sighs, rubbing his temples. “I am so not up for it.”
“Dude, it’s Ed,” Jeff says, balling up his breakfast wrapper and shoving it in the bag. “Just call him.” Jared grabs his phone and dials the number for the coffee shop. Ed answers and Jared considers telling him he’s sick, but instead he just blurts the truth.
“Hey Ed, its Jared. Look, um, me and Jensen broke up last night.” His voice cracks a bit at the end, and he squeezes his eyes shut. He still can’t believe it.
“Shit, dude,” Ed says, clicking his tongue. “Listen, don’t worry about comin’ in, okay? We’re good for the weekend.”
“Thanks,” Jared croaks, hanging up the phone and letting it drop to the floor. He falls back on his bed and blinks away the sudden moisture in his eyes. Everything hurts, like his heart can’t shoulder all of the burden by itself. His insides feel like they’ve been scraped out – his entire body is one hollow ache. “I wanna go to sleep.”
“Jared,” Jeff starts, but Jared just rolls to face the wall, sniffling slightly.
“Just go, okay?” Jeff huffs a sigh, but Jared doesn’t hear him leave. Jared just squeezes his eyes shut, taking steady breaths until he falls asleep.
Jensen sort of wishes everyone would fuck off and leave him alone, but at the same time he is grateful for their presence. He’s stretched out lengthwise on Josh and Jeff’s couch, his head pillowed in Sandy’s lap and his feet draped across Sophia’s thighs.
Josh is sitting on the floor with his back against the sofa, flipping mindlessly through the channels. Jensen is just sort of staring ahead, concentrating on the feeling of Sandy’s fingers in his hair instead of the gaping hole in his chest.
The front door opens and Jensen’s eyes flick towards it instinctually. Jeff walks up to them and Jensen can’t help but notice the slight accusation in his eyes when Jeff looks at him. Jensen just blinks, turning his eyes back to the television.
“We need to talk,” Jeff says, and it’s directed at Josh. “Now.”
“Look, I’m sorry I punched your brother,” Josh says, crossing his arms defiantly over his chest. Jensen winces. Even now, he hates to think of Jared in pain. “But Jensen was crying. I don’t respond well to that.”
“Will you get the fuck in the kitchen?” Jeff says, and Josh huffs a sigh as he climbs to his feet. They disappear into the kitchen and Jensen shifts his weight, tucking one arm under Sandy’s thigh.
“He punched Jared?” Sandy asks tightly, and Jensen sighs.
“Last night,” Jensen says, voice low and rasping. He blinks against the sudden image in his eyes – Jared out in the hallway, wet and bleeding, begging to be able to talk to him. Another tear leaks from the corner of his eye and he doesn’t bother wiping it away. He figures that at the rate he’s going, he’ll dry up soon enough.
“Maybe you should talk to him,” Sandy says again, and Jensen tenses. “I mean, there has to be some sort of explanation. I just don’t see Jared – “
“Stop,” Jensen says weakly, cutting her off. “Please stop. You weren’t there, okay?”
“Okay,” Sandy replies, and there is a pause where Jensen just knows she and Sophia are sharing a look. “Okay, Jensen.”
Jensen rolls over, buries his face in Sandy’s stomach, and falls back to sleep.
There is a knock on the door, followed immediately by James walking in without permission. Chad left earlier, claiming he needed a shower and a fresh set of clothes, but Jared figures he just wanted some time away from him. He’s not the best company right now, after all.
James sets something down on the desk and crawls into bed with Jared, pushing until Jared scoots over to make room. Jared just sighs and continues to stare at the ceiling. James takes his hand, twining their fingers together and Jared bites his lip. He simultaneously hates and craves all physical contact – hates it because every little touch reminds him of Jensen, needs it because it makes him feel better.
“Jeff called me,” James says in way of a greeting. “Told me I was in charge of making sure you eat three times a day and that you don’t throw yourself off of the roof.”
“I’m not going to throw myself off the roof,” Jared says quietly, but he squeezes James’s hand all the same.
“Not sure if you wanna hear this or not,” James starts, and Jared immediately tenses. “But word is there was a lot of screaming coming from across the hall this morning. Seems someone informed Katie of what happened and she was none too pleased with her roommate.”
“How the fuck does everyone already know?” Jared says, ignoring the mention of Jessica. Thinking about her makes his blood boil. He feels James shrug next to him.
“You guys are the golden couple,” James says simply, and Jared’s heart clenches in his chest.
“Were,” he croaks, and James jostles his shoulder.
“Are,” he counters. “This is just a bump in the road. You’ll see. I’ve seen plenty couples in my time here, and none of them have been as epic as you and Jensen.”
“I know you think you’re helping,” Jared says, swallowing the lump in his throat. “But you really, really aren’t.”
“Sorry,” James says, squeezing his hand again. “It’s just – don’t give up so fast, okay?”
Jared doesn’t say anything, just steadfastly avoids looking at the collage on the wall. He sort of wants to get up and rip it down. Too many happy memories.
There is a knock on the door and Jared sighs. He sort of wishes everyone would just let him wallow in peace. James rolls off of the bed to answer it. Josh is on the other side of the door, and Jared squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. James steps aside to let him in.
“Come to kick my ass some more?” Jared asks blandly, staring up at the ceiling. “Because I gotta say, you did a pretty bang up job last night.”
“I’ll just…give you two a moment,” James says awkwardly, fidgeting slightly before leaving the room and shutting the door behind him. Josh pulls the desk chair up to the bed and sits in it, pulling something out of his pocket. He leans over Jared and Jared tenses automatically, but Josh just sets an ice pack on his eye. Jared brings his hand up to hold it to his face, turning to eye Josh dubiously.
“You made my brother cry,” Josh says, and Jared blinks rapidly. “I sort of fly off of the handle when it’s Jensen at stake.”
Jared just nods. He’s well aware of this. He’s seen Josh’s overprotective streak in play on numerous occasions. It’s just never been directed at him.
“But it’s been brought to my attention that I should have maybe gotten your side of the story,” Josh says. “So that’s why I’m here. Tell me.”
Jared bites his lip. He really doesn’t want to go through this again, but the look on Josh’s face tells him he’s not leaving until Jared talks. So Jared just stares up at the ceiling, tells him everything that he already told Chad and Jeff.
“I wouldn’t do that to Jensen,” he says when he’s done, finally turning to Josh and blinking a stray tear away. “I swear.”
“God, you two are fucking pathetic,” Josh says, and Jared blinks rapidly. “I believe you.”
“You do?” Jared says hopefully, sitting up and holding the ice pack in his lap. Josh winces when he sees Jared’s black eye, flashing him a guilty little look.
“Yeah, man,” Josh replies, chewing on his bottom lip. “It’s just, Jensen has – “
“ – issues, yeah,” Jared finishes, letting out a rough sigh. Josh looks over at him, lips quirking up at the corner.
“I’ll talk to him,” Josh promises. “Just…give him some time.”
“I miss him already,” Jared admits, looking down at the ice pack in his lap. “I don’t want to lose him.”
“Dude,” Josh says, sounding pained. But that doesn’t stop him from pulling Jared into a quick, awkward hug. “Chin up, man. And keep the ice on that.”
Jared knows that’s about as much of an apology as he’s going to get. He lifts the icepack in salute and presses it gingerly to his eye.
“I’ve got to get back,” Josh says. “My apartment is now hot chick central.”
“I’m glad they’re there for him,” Jared says, lying back down on his bed. Josh gives him a sympathetic look.
“You’re not the enemy, Jared,” he says. “They’re gonna come talk to you, too. No one thinks you’re capable of being such an asshole.”
“Except Jensen,” Jared says brokenly, shifting the icepack so it’s resting over both eyes.
“Jensen has enough baggage to fill a cargo hold,” Josh replies, reaching out to pat Jared’s foot. “It’ll work out, man. I’m sure of it.”
Josh lets himself out then, and Jared just lies there until the icepack gets too cold on his bruised skin. He drops it onto the floor and blinks experimentally. His eye feels less swollen, and Jared gets under the covers, letting his eyes drift to the collage on the wall against his better judgment.
Jensen doesn’t really leave the couch all weekend, not even to shower. The girls bring him comfort food, hardly leaving his side. Except for when they do. Except for when they go to visit Jared. They come back and he swears he can smell Jared’s cologne on them. They all try to convince him of Jared’s innocence, but he just tunes them out.
It’s Monday, and everyone is out at their various classes. Jensen sleeps until one and watches mindless television throughout the entire afternoon. Josh comes home around four, just popping in to change before work, and he lets out an exasperated sigh when he spots Jensen.
“No, Jensen,” he says sternly. “You’re not going to fucking do this.”
“Do what?” Jensen says, voice rough from acting like a mute all weekend. Josh just puts one hand on his hip and waves the other around in the air.
“You’re not going to be some fucking teenage heartbroken cliché that mopes around and sleeps through class and just lies around listening to your sad ass Matt Nathanson playlist on your iPod, alright?”
“’M not a cliché,” Jensen mumbles, reaching over to feel around in the mess on the floor, coming up with a crumpled bag of cookies. Something cuts into his hip and he extracts his mp3 player, shooting Josh a guilty little look.
“That much is obvious,” Josh says, rolling his eyes. Jensen glares at him, bottom lip jutting out. “Oh, can it. That shit stopped working when you turned six. I want you up off of the couch. I want you to shower. And you better not miss another fucking class.”
“Anything else I can do for you?” Jensen asks sarcastically, and Josh’s irritated expression smoothes out.
“Yes,” he replies slowly, leaning over the back of the couch to look him in the eye. “I want you to go talk to Jared.”
“That I can’t do,” Jensen says, tossing the cookies on the floor. Josh sighs and looks at him pleadingly.
“Jensen – “ Josh tries, but Jensen just rolls off of the couch and stalks towards the bathroom.
“Mind your own fucking business,” Jensen snaps. He turns on the shower and avoids his reflection in the mirror.
“You are my fucking business, you little shit!”
The only answer he gives Josh is the slam of the bathroom door.
The sun is blindingly bright against the endless white sand. Jared blinks against it, lifting a hand to shade his eyes. It doesn’t work. The sun continues to hit his eyes like his hand provides no barrier at all – like he’s invisible. He whips around and comes face to face with himself – all of four feet tall with a slight smattering of mocha colored freckles across his sharp little nose and gaps in his teeth.
This is how Jared knows he’s dreaming.
The seven year old version of himself tears off across the sand, heading straight for him. He braces himself for impact but he bursts right through. Jared looks down at himself. He is invisible.
He turns and watches the young version of himself dive-bomb a tan lump in the sand and Jared’s throat constricts. Jensen.
He watches the young version of Jensen squeal and tackle Jared into the sand, their parents laughing from their beach chairs. Jensen is still startlingly blond, sand clumping in the light colored strands. They chase each other into the water and Jared realizes that this isn’t just a dream – it’s a memory.
Jared blinks and suddenly he’s in the water, his own body still invisible to him. His younger self laughs, innocent and so carefree. Jensen’s face is covered in freckles from the unrelenting summer sun. He knows that his own will fade away completely as he ages and Jensen will grow into his until the tiny caramel specks only help accentuate his beauty.
Jensen tackles Jared down into the water and Jared lets out a booming laugh. He knows what is supposed to happen next. Their mothers call them out of the water and they go back to the hotel. They change and go to a luau, and everyone laughs as Jared and Jensen get up to do the hula with all the pretty dancers.
It didn’t go like this.
“Jensen!” He hears, startling a little at the sound of his own high-pitched, childish voice. “Where’d you go?”
Jared looks into his own panicked eyes, watches as his own tiny hands push through the water as if he’s trying to move it out of the way. Jared’s heart speeds up, and he looks around. He spots a shock of blond in the distance, a hand flying up out the water for only a moment before it disappears under the surface.
“NO!” The little boy version of himself shrieks. Jared blinks and suddenly he is that little boy. His heart is pumping and the water is like ice against his skin. “No!” He’s screaming, throat raw with salt and overuse. “Jensen! Come back! No, Jensen, no! Don’t leave me!”
He sees nothing but the vast expanse of ocean, suddenly menacing under the crystal blue sky.
He throws himself under the water, and everything goes black.
Jared sits up in bed, panting like he’s just run a marathon. He gasps when he tastes salt on his lips and then realizes that he’s crying. Terror is making his entire body shake, and he squeezes his eyes shut against the intense realism of the dream.
The need to hear Jensen’s voice is overpowering – like he won’t be able to breathe properly until he knows Jensen is safe.
His phone is on the nightstand, and he grabs it without thinking. Holds down the speed dial button and listens to it ring, gnawing on his bottom lip. There’s a click when Jensen answers, and holy shit, he answered. He hears Jensen snuffling, and he can picture Jensen answering blindly, trying to navigate the phone to his face without opening his eyes.
“Yeah?” Jensen says, voice rough with sleep. Jared glances at the clock. It’s after two in the morning, but the slight guilt he feels about waking Jensen up doesn’t compare to the relief he feels at hearing his voice, no matter how sleepy and confused it is.
“Jen, it’s me,” he starts, surprised at how badly his voice shakes. He hears Jensen’s sharp intake of breath and then some shuffling, like he’s trying to sit up.
“Jared?” He asks, sounding weary and concerned at the same time. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry. I know you don’t want to talk to me, but I had a really fucked up dream. It really scared me and I just wanted to make sure – I needed to know you were okay.” He wipes his arm across his face, sniffling and pinching the bridge of his nose.
Jensen is silent for a long time, and Jared listens to the sound of his breathing. It’s harsh and erratic, like he’s getting upset.
“I’m – I’ve been better, Jared,” he finally says, voice rough as broken glass. “But I’m okay.”
“God, Jensen. I miss you,” Jared says without thinking, his breath catching in his throat. “So much, Jen. Please come home.”
“Jared,” Jensen pleads, his voice thick and quiet. “Don’t do this, please.”
“Jen.” He pulls the phone away from his ear and puts one hand over his mouth. He’s aware of how pathetic he sounds, and he snaps his phone shut just as Jensen starts to speak.
He lies back down and doesn’t cry, but it’s a near thing.
Jared tries his best to ignore the persistent pounding on his door on Tuesday morning. He didn’t leave his room all weekend, or Monday for that matter, and would have starved if it weren’t for James bringing him food.
“I will break it down, Jared! I swear to God.” Chad calls out, pounding on the door again. Jared groans and gets out of bed, opening the door and blinking blearily at the light that pours in from the hall.
“What?” Jared demands, turning around and heading back for his bed. Chad catches him by the elbow and prevents him from getting back into his warm little cocoon of sorrow. The dream he had last night suddenly comes back to him, and he groans as he remembers talking to Jensen, embarrassing himself so completely.
“Oh no,” Chad says, dragging Jared over to his closet. “You need to get up before you lose muscle mass. Besides, we have class.”
“No, you have class,” Jared retorts. There is no way he wants to go to the class he and Jensen share. He can only imagine Jensen’s reaction after his late night phone call.
“Jared, you have to stop this,” Chad says, sounding serious enough that Jared turns to look at him. “I’m fuckin’ worried about you, okay? You can’t – you can’t do this to yourself.”
“It’s my life, Chad, alright?” Jared says, and Chad just sighs.
“Look, dude. You’re my best friend,” he replies, and then holds up a hand. “I know I’m not yours, but you’re mine. And it’s fucking killing me to see you like this. You’ve gotta move on.”
Jared knows he’s nowhere near ready to move on, but Chad does have a point.
“If I go to class, will you get off my fucking back?” Jared asks, sighing. Chad nods eagerly, and then wrinkles his nose.
“You’re kinda rank, though,” he says. Jared just rolls his eyes and changes into jeans and a tee shirt. He pulls an old sweatshirt over his head and runs a brush through his bed head.
“It ain’t getting much better than this,” Jared informs him. Chad just shrugs and hands him his book.
“I can deal with you looking like a janky ass hobo as long as you get the fuck out of this room,” Chad tells him, and leads him out of the door.
The walk across campus is sort of surreal. Jared doesn’t know what he expected, but he feels like things should at least seem different. It’s sort of humbling to see that something that altered his entire life doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Life goes on. But that doesn’t mean he is ready for it to – not without Jensen, at least.
They walk into the lecture hall and take their usual seats in the front row near the door – for a quick escape, Jensen had joked. They’re actually early, which Chad explains is due to the fact that he figured he would have to use bodily force to get Jared out of bed.
Jared is incredibly fidgety, tapping his toes and scratching at his stubble. He winces at the scrape of it against his palm. He probably does look like a janky ass hobo. The door opens to his right, and his breath catches in his throat.
Jensen is frozen in the doorway, dressed in sweats and a hoodie. His hair is flat and unwashed, he has bags under his eyes, and his chin is coated with golden stubble, but he’s still so fucking gorgeous. Jensen blinks a few times and ducks his head, walking by Jared without a word – without so much as a sideways glance. Jared feels like he’s been punched in the stomach.
He starts to turn his head to sneak another glance at Jensen, but Chad pinches his thigh and he looks forward again. He bows his head and doesn’t even pretend to listen when the professor starts to speak.
Jensen drops down into a seat a few rows back and to the left of Jared and Chad, promptly leaning forward to rest his elbows on the desk and bury his face in his hands. Jared’s pleading voice from their stilted conversation last night rings in his ears, makes him feel hollowed out and achy.
This was a horrible idea.
He knew he wouldn’t be able to face Jared, and yet he decided to come to the one class they share. He takes a deep breath and lifts his head. From his vantage point, he can see Jared’s profile. He looks horrible, skin pale and lips turned down into a frown. When he turns his head to track the professor’s movements, Jensen can see his black eye. It’s vivid purple, just starting to turn an ugly shade of brown around the edges.
It looks like it hurts, like Jared would hiss if anyone dare touched it. Jensen wants to know if Jared has been putting ice on it, wants to apologize for his overprotective brother hauling off and clocking him in the face. Most of all, he just wants to crawl onto Jared’s lap, wrap his arms around Jared’s shoulders and press his face in Jared’s neck, in that curve that seems tailor made for Jensen’s forehead.
He just wants.
Blood pounds between his ears and it’s impossible to concentrate. He’s just getting himself upset again, and he gathers up his books. Right in the middle of the lecture, he gets up to leave.
He tries to hurry past Jared, but that doesn’t stop him from reaching out to snag Jensen’s wrist between his finger and thumb. Jensen stumbles to a stop, jerking as if he’d been burned.
“Jensen,” Jared breathes, barely above a whisper. There is so much packed into those two syllables – pain, regret, longing. Jensen turns his head against his better judgment and meets Jared’s eyes. God, he misses him so much.
People are looking at them now, and Jensen extracts his wrist from Jared’s loose grasp. He bites his lip and curls his hand into a fist, blinking as his vision blurs.
He hurries out of the room and doesn’t dare look back at Jared’s face. He’s too afraid of what he’d see.
Once he’s outside in the fresh air he takes deep breaths, trying to clear his head. There is a chill in the air, and he zips his sweatshirt all of the way up as he hurries out to the parking lot.
He lifts his head to see Sandy and Katie standing near his car. Normally this would be a welcome sight, but they have Jessica with them. He freezes where he stands, not knowing so much anger and hate could be contained in him all at once.
They walk over to him. Sandy and Katie look nervous and Jessica looks put upon. Jensen holds up his hand once they reach him, shaking it back and forth as he starts to walk around them.
“No,” Jensen says adamantly. “No fucking way.”
“Jensen,” Sandy says pleadingly. “Look, this isn’t a cake walk for any of us, but just listen to her, okay?”
“Why the fuck would I want to do that?” Jensen says, whirling around on them. He’s so angry at them. Why would they corner him like this?
“Jensen,” Jessica starts once Katie nudges her shoulder. “Jared and I didn’t do anything. I swear.”
“And I have every reason to believe you, right?” Jensen spits out, and Jessica rolls her eyes.
“Look, man,” she replies. “You and I don’t have the best track record, right? Don’t you think that if anything actually did happen, I’d be gloating right about now?”
Jensen blinks and stands up a little straighter. She sort of has a point. She’d be rubbing salt in Jensen’s wounds if she could.
“And – I’m sorry,” she continues, albeit quieter. “I was stupid. I’ve been acting like a raving bitch for no reason.”
“Anything else?” Jensen asks, and Jessica shrugs her shoulders, slipping her hands in her pockets and shaking her head slightly. Jensen huffs out a breath, sending Sandy a lukewarm glare before turning for his car.
He gets into the driver’s seat and rests his forehead on the steering wheel. The passenger door opens and closes, and Jensen looks over to see Sandy biting her lip, expression sheepish.
“That was fucked up,” he says with little heat. He’s too exhausted to stay angry for too long.
“I’m sorry, Jen,” Sandy says. “I don’t know what to do. You won’t believe any of us and we just want you to stop hating Jared.”
Jensen sits up at that, looking over at Sandy with wide eyes.
“You think I hate Jared?” He asks, shocked. Sandy just shrugs her shoulders. Jensen swallows hard and slumps back against the seat. “I don’t hate him.”
“Then what’s the deal?” Sandy asks, genuinely confused. “You still don’t believe him.”
“No, I – you don’t understand, Sandy,” he says quietly, looking down at his hands. Sandy leans over the console and wraps an arm around his shoulders.
“Then why don’t you explain it to me?” She asks gently. Jensen bites on his bottom lip and reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose.
“I can’t,” he whispers, and that’s true. He can’t even explain it to himself. Sandy makes a disapproving noise but doesn’t pull away. “You gonna leave now?”
“No,” she sighs, tucking his hair behind his ear. “There’s still some ice cream in Josh’s freezer. We’re gonna go eat it.”
“I don’t deserve you,” Jensen says, turning to give her the smallest of smiles. Sandy smiles back and leans in to kiss the tip of his nose.
“You got that right,” she says, and then sits back in her seat. Jensen buckles his seatbelt and sticks his key in the ignition.
Looks like it’s time for more clichéd heartbroken moping. Even Jensen is getting sick of it, so he’s definitely getting Sandy something sparkly for Christmas.
That is, if he doesn’t angst himself to death by then.
When he lets himself and Sandy into Josh and Jeff’s apartment, he is surprised to see Chris sprawled across the couch – in his designated moping spot. Jensen lets out a frustrated growl and shuts the door harder than necessary.
“Dude,” Jensen begins through gritted teeth. “On the admittedly long list of people I have absolutely no desire to talk to right now, you’re number two. And I just had to deal with number one so my patience is a bit thin. In other words, leave.”
“What the fuck did I do?” Chris shouts as Jensen stalks into the kitchen to get a bottle of water. He takes a drink and storms back into the living room.
“Jared and I wouldn’t have fought at all if it weren’t for you!” He shouts. Chris stares in disbelief and Sandy fidgets quietly in the doorway. After a few moments of awkward silence, Josh comes in, head tipped back as he chugs an energy drink. He bumps into Sandy and she latches onto his arm.
“Josh!” She says, pasting on a fake smile. Josh looks back and forth between Chris and Jensen and opens his mouth to say something, but Sandy cuts him off. “We need more ice cream! Let’s go!”
“But – “ Josh starts, looking confused.
“Now,” Sandy replies, and pulls him out of the room. Once they’re alone, Chris gets up off of the couch and looks back towards Jensen.
“So wait – what?” Chris asks, looking pissed off and confused.
“The whole reason we even fought was because of the shit you pulled on Halloween,” Jensen tells him, storming past him to flop down onto the couch and cross his arms.
“Look, I said I was – “
“He thinks you’re fucking in love with me,” Jensen snorts, turning his eyes to the television but not really paying any attention to it. There is a beat of silence in which Chris doesn’t respond.
“Well, he ain’t wrong,” Chris finally says, voice nervous and unsteady. Jensen nearly laughs.
“Right,” he says, and then turns to look at Chris’s face, eyes widening at the intensely serious expression on it. His breath catches in his throat. “Come on, Chris. Don’t fucking do this to me,” he pleads.
“I’m not doin’ shit!” Chris replies, raising his voice slightly. “Christ, Jensen. Do you think I can help it? Do you actually think I would ever act on it?”
“You did!” Jensen accuses, breathing quickly now. His head is spinning and he doesn’t want to fucking deal with this.
“That wasn’t my proudest moment,” Chris admits, sitting on the couch next to Jensen. “But I’d be a damn fool to try to come between you two. Besides, it looks like you’re letting yourself do a pretty bang up job of that all on your own.” Jensen glares at him.
“You don’t even know – “
“Yes, I do,” Chris cuts in. “There’s not really such a thing as secrets when it comes to you two. You think Jared cheated on you, which is such fucking bullshit, Jen. I’ve seen the way that boy looks at you. Hell, everyone has. Victoria’s Secret’s entire summer line could parade on by him and he wouldn’t even so much as turn his head, you fucking idiot.”
“Will you please shut up?” Jensen pleads, sinking lower into the sofa.
“No,” Chris says, his gaze hardening. “If you let Jared go, you’re as dumb as you are pretty. And I gotta say, that’s really fucking dumb.”
“I don’t think he cheated on me, okay?” Jensen says, and Chris merely blinks. “I just – I can’t – fuck, Chris. Can you please just go?”
“Fine,” Chris says, getting up. “I’m not gonna sit around here watching you mope over something that’s your own damn fault.”
“Good,” Jensen retorts childishly. Chris has his handle on the doorknob before Jensen looks back up, biting his lip. “We’re gonna be – I mean, we’re okay, right?”
“I don’t know,” Chris says, but he’s smirking. “I don’t like making a habit of hanging around pretty idiots, but for you I’ll think about making an exception.”
“Asshole,” Jensen says, lips turning out into a pout and looking down at his lap. Chris opens the door and leans against the edge of it, sighing.
“Look, Jensen,” he starts. “Whatever it is you’re scared of – it ain’t worth breakin’ two hearts over, alright?”
Jensen lifts his head, but Chris has already left.
On Wednesday afternoon Jared manages to make it into Ed’s for his shift. The hot vapors from the steamer hurts his eye and he wants to throw up every time he gets a good whiff of espresso.
By the time he gets back to the room, he’s fed up and pissed off.
“Fuck this,” he says, standing in the middle of the room. He walks over to the inflatable bed and unscrews the cap, listening to the whoosh of air as it deflates. Once it’s semi-flat he rolls it into a ball and shoves it into the closet.
He whirls around and his eyes lock on the collage he made their first day here – all the pictures of them laughing, smiling, kissing. He strides over to it and climbs up onto the desk. He stares at it for a long while, angry tears blurring his vision. He reaches up and strokes his fingers over one of the pictures – he and Jensen at Disneyland – and curls his fingers around the edge.
There is a bang as his door flies open and he nearly falls off of the desk.
“We’ve got Italiano today!” James shouts gleefully. “Spaghetti and – what the fuck are you doing?”
“I’m taking all this shit down,” Jared says, wobbling on the desk. “I’m sick of looking at it and feeling sorry for myself.”
“If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go for a run!” James shrieks, coming over to tug on the hem of Jared’s shirt. “Read fmylife.com, hell – cry in a corner while expressing your pain in 140 character bursts. But don’t destroy your shit and risk falling and cracking your enormous head open, you idiot.”
“What’s the point?” Jared shouts, jumping down off of the desk. James just looks at him and hooks an arm around his shoulders.
“You’re gonna want that when Jensen comes back,” James says simply, pushing him down onto the bed and handing him a bag of food. Jared just stares at him incredulously.
“He’s not coming back, James, okay?” Jared says, taking the bag and setting it on the bed. “It’s fucking over.”
“No, it’s not,” James says, and he sounds like he means it.
“How do you know?” Jared asks desperately, looking up at him through his bangs. James just bites his lip and sits down next to Jared, taking his hand again.
“I’m pretty fucking intuitive, okay?” James starts. “I’m good at reading people. This is not the end of you two. It can’t be.”
“Why can’t it?” Jared counters, squeezing James’s hand and trying to get this sudden rush of rage under control.
“Because!” James shouts. “I’ve never seen any couple love like you two. Young, old, gay, straight – doesn’t matter. If you two don’t make it, what the fuck chance do any of the rest of us have?”
Jared turns to look over at James, eyes watering as he listens to him. “Really?”
“Yes, dumbass,” James says fondly, untangling their hands to reach up and tousle Jared’s hair. “Now eat. I got Rhonda to throw in some extra garlic bread.”
“Thanks,” Jared sniffs. “You’re a good friend, James. Slightly crazy, but still a good friend.”
Jensen is sort of proud of himself. He managed to go to all his classes and work a shift at the bookstore today. It’s Thursday – almost a week since he and Jared broke up.
Being a contributing part of society pretty much zapped all of his energy, and as soon as he gets back to Josh’s he microwaves himself some corndogs and takes up residence on the couch.
When Josh comes in that night, Jensen is curled up on the sofa, staring despondently at the television.
“Dude,” Josh says, huffing a sigh and slumping his shoulders. “You are bringing me down.”
Jensen doesn’t reply, just blinks as Josh sets his bag down and strolls over to the couch. Josh smacks at his legs until Jensen lifts them up, letting Josh sit down before he drops his feet on Josh’s lap.
“Alright, Jenny,” Josh sighs, slumping back against the cushions. “You’re my kid brother and I love you, but you need to get the fuck out.”
“What?” Jensen replies, rolling onto his back and staring at Josh, brow furrowed. Josh just scrubs his hand over his face for a moment before turning to look at Jensen.
“This is our apartment and you’re in here hogging our couch and casting this big black fucking emo ass rain cloud all over everything, and it’s time it stopped,” he says with feeling, and then lowers his voice slightly. “You guys need to make up.”
Jensen glowers and then rolls onto his side again, glaring at the television.
“Oh what, you’re just never going to talk to him again? You’re going to let something that only fucking happened in your delusional little mind ruin eighteen plus years of friendship and the greatest love any of us has ever seen?”
“Stay out of it, Josh,” Jensen snaps. “You’ve never had a relationship last longer than a box of condoms, so don’t act like you’re a fucking expert, alright?” Josh pushes Jensen’s legs off of him roughly and stands up, glaring at him. Jensen sits up, his chest heaving.
“Fuck you, Jensen,” Josh replies, and Jensen knows he’s pushed him to his breaking point. Josh stares Jensen down with that innate big brother gaze that usually can get Jensen cowering. “I know the real reason you’re doing this. You’re fucking scared. You’re the only guy Jared has ever been interested in, and you’re afraid one day he’ll decide he actually does want the wife and the golden retriever and the two-point-five kids and you’ll end up with your heart broken. So you’re using this mother of all misunderstandings as an excuse to end it while you still have the chance to make it out relatively unscathed because you’re a fucking coward.”
“Fuck you!” Jensen spits, pushing Josh back roughly by his shoulders. His chest feels tight and his eyes itch as he starts to pace angrily, refusing to meet Josh’s serious gaze – mainly because he doesn’t want him to know he just hit the proverbial nail on the fucking head.
“Did I hit a nerve?” Josh says, and Jensen turns to face him. “Don’t act like I’m wrong. I know you better than anyone. Except for Jared, that is. And he’s fucking wrecked, man. You’re gonna put him through that for something he didn’t even do?”
“You don’t know – “
“Oh, shut the fuck up, Jen,” Josh interrupts. “He didn’t do it and you fucking know it.” Jensen slumps his shoulders because yeah, he does know. “Dude, he fucking loves you. The least you can do is go talk to him. If you’re really gonna end it, he at least deserves to know the real reason why. Personally, I think you should stop being such a fucking pussy – worrying about the future and shit that may or may not happen. Just fucking live your life, Jensen.”
Jensen sighs, glaring up at Josh, who just smiles smugly and points to the door. “Now get out.”
“You’re seriously kicking me out?” Jensen asks, baffled. Josh just raises an eyebrow, arm still extended outward. Jensen just sighs, gathering his keys and phone from the end table before storming past Josh. His brother snags him around the shoulders and pulls him into a hug. Jensen slumps against him, hugging him back in silent thanks.
Josh pushes him back by the shoulders, grins at him, and gives him a little shove towards the door. Jensen takes a deep breath and heads out into the cool night air.
Onto Part 6.