Jensen is leaving his math class when Misha suddenly comes up behind him and slings an arm over his shoulders. Jensen sags under the sudden weight and turns his head to give his friend an amused eyebrow lift.
“Hey!” Misha says as he walks them down the hall. Jensen isn’t sure why he even bothers to pretend to be straight at school when he has the gay kids hanging off of him all the time. “Jared’s gonna be a little late. He had to drop something off at the office.”
“Okay,” Jensen replies. Misha finally removes his arm and shoves his hands in his pockets.
“So, uh,” he begins awkwardly, and Jensen glances over at him. “Jared told me that he told you about us.”
Jensen stumbles to a halt and looks around before coming to stand in front of Misha. He doesn’t really want to have this particular awkward conversation surrounded by people. He wasn’t really planning on having it ever.
“He did,” Jensen says quietly, and Misha nods.
“I just wanted to make sure you were cool with it?” Misha’s blue eyes widen slightly. “Okay, well not cool with it – you know what I mean. It was a long time ago and we were stupid hormonal kids. There weren’t like, feelings involved or anything.”
“It was two years ago,” Jensen replies with a shrug. “It’s in the past – before I came along. It doesn’t matter.”
“Right, okay. Awesome.” Misha grins and Jensen smirks at him. He thought it would be weird to be around Misha knowing what he does now, but it isn’t. It’s obvious that he and Jared are just good friends. “Now that that’s out of the way. Is it too early to joke about having a threesome?”
Jensen jumps a little and stares at Misha with wide eyes. His expression quickly turns into a glare when he sees the dopey grin on Misha’s face. He shoves his shoulder roughly and heads towards the cafeteria again. He’s had months to get used to his friends’ raunchy and often inappropriate humor, but sometimes it still takes him by surprise.
“Okay, fine,” Misha sighs dramatically. “Too early. I get it.” Jensen and Misha lean up against the wall outside of the cafeteria to wait for the rest of their group. “I will just redouble my efforts to convert Chad fully to the dark side. It shouldn’t take much.”
“Chad being straight doesn’t really make sense,” Jensen admits, smirking and looking over at Misha.
“Right?” Misha replies with a chuckle. As if on cue, Chad comes meandering up to them in a soft purple polo shirt with the collar popped, a pair of white cargo shorts, and flip flops.
“S’up, bitches?” He asks innocently, and Misha and Jensen crack up. “What?”
“No, Chad, seriously,” Misha wheezes, gripping Jensen’s shoulder for support. “How are you not gay?”
“Come again?” Chad asks. Misha reaches out to flick the collar of his shirt. “What, a straight dude can’t rock a lavender shirt?”
“He can,” Jared cuts in as he appears around the corner. “If he calls it purple.”
“Well, fuck you all and the cocks you rode in on,” Chad sneers. He looks over at Jensen. “Except you, Jensen. You’re cool as shit. But your boyfriend can choke on a dick. … Not yours. Or – fuck this, I’m out.”
He storms through the cafeteria doors and Jensen stares after him with wide eyes as Jared and Misha collapse in a fit of giggles.
“Oh, he’s precious,” Misha snorts. Jensen turns his head when he feels a soft nudge against his shoulder. Jared is smiling fondly at him and Jensen feels his own expression soften in response.
“¡Oye, chico!” Sophia calls as she and Sandy approach “¿Quieres ganarte un poco de dinero?”
“Did your girlfriend just call me a little boy hooker?” Misha asks Sandy, and she rolls her eyes.
“It was implied,” Sandy says, and Sophia winks. “We just left Spanish.”
“Oh,” Misha replies before turning to face Sophia. “Your mom.”
“Tu madre!” Sophia shouts, and Jensen snorts.
“I will kill you,” Misha says calmly. “Muerte violenta.”
“Can we possibly get some food?” Jared asks with an amused smile on his lips. “Tengo hambre. Jensen, y tu?”
“I… am not taking Spanish,” Jensen admits sheepishly, and the rest of the group chuckles.
“Fracaso,” Misha tells him, winking as he enters the cafeteria. They find Chad chatting up a few freshmen girls. Jared grabs him by the ear and drags him away.
“What the fuck?” Chad shrieks, batting Jared’s hand away. Jared raises an eyebrow.
“Reassert your masculinity on something that isn’t jailbait,” Jared tells him. “You can start by not dressing like Ryan Evans.”
“The guy from High School Musical?” Chad inquires, tilting his head to the side.
“Oh my god, Chad,” Misha cries as they get into the food line. “You know who Ryan Evans is. You are the gayest straight boy in the world!”
People start looking over at the source of all the commotion. Jensen blushes and ducks his head as he grabs an apple. Not only are his friends the most out and proud gay kids in school, but they’re also the loudest.
“And like you’re not trying to be the butchest thing on two legs?” Chad asks, looking him up and down. “Kurt Cobain called. He wants his wardrobe back.”
“Did you – “ Misha turns to Jared with a shocked look on his face. “He just did the someone called and wants their something back joke. He took it there, Jared.”
Jensen just shakes his head with an amused smirk as he pays for his food. The weather is nice and the boys can’t shut up so they decide to eat their lunch in their designated “outside spot”, which is really just the small grassy area between the gym and the theater.
They all flop down on the ground with their trays, grass stains be damned. Everyone is kind of quiet as they eat, busy enjoying the peace and sunshine. But of course, it’s Chad that breaks it.
“Oh, BTW, I went and picked these up last night,” Chad says as he digs around in his backpack. He pulls out a zip-lock bag full of something shiny and pink. He extracts one and flicks it at Jensen. He picks it up out of the grass and looks at it. “Got them done just in time. The rest are in my car.”
“You had the buttons made,” Jared deadpans, snatching it from Jensen to look at it. They’re just as Chad described – hot pink with STFU for Awareness! in black font. “You are so lame.”
“Your face is lame.” Chad pushes his tray into the middle of the circle and lays down, using Misha’s leg as a pillow. “So we’re good to go for tomorrow, right? Am I done with my vice-presidential duties until then?”
“I think so,” Jared replies as he fastens the button to his backpack. “We already did the shopping and everything for the rally. I’ll need help setting that up tomorrow after school. And I’m going to go to the office to make a reminder announcement before school ends today. We’re all meeting at the flagpole tomorrow at seven to pass out the speaking cards and everything.”
“So early,” Misha moans. He flinches when Jared flicks a pin at him. “I’ll be there, damn.”
“There’s so many people planning on participating this year,” Sandy chirps, bouncing excitedly. “Our last one’s gonna be a good one.”
“Don’t do that.” Misha covers his face with his hands and shakes his head. “Don’t talk about school ending. I don’t want to think about like, growing up and shit. I wanna think about how Chad and Jared are going to last the entire day without speaking.”
Jensen chews his food thoughtfully while he listens to everyone talk about Day of Silence. It’s tomorrow, and everyone is really excited about it. Jared hasn’t asked him to participate, which is good because Jensen really doesn’t want to let him down.
Jensen wants to show his support. He just – can’t. Not yet.
“Hey, I’ve never slipped,” Jared says proudly. “It’s always Chad that can’t keep his damn mouth shut.”
“Um, fuck you,” Chad replies, pulling his sunglasses out of his bag and slipping them on his face. The warning bell rings and everyone sighs as they get up and gather all their trash to stuff it in the can near the gym entrance.
“Okay, guys,” Jared says, addressing everyone but Jensen. “Tomorrow. Seven. Flagpole by the front office.”
“Yes sir!” They chirp in unison, saluting him before going their separate ways. Jared smirks and his expression softens when he turns to Jensen.
“Bye,” Jared says softly. “I’ll call you later.”
“Later,” Jensen confirms with a nod. He can tell how badly Jared wants to kiss him, how much he wants to pull him into a hug. Instead he just tugs once on Jensen’s bracelet before turning to walk away.
Jensen looks after him and sighs.
“Jared, I will smack you in your face,” Sherri warns as she pulls a pillow over her face. “Shut up.”
“But mom, we’re out of dog food. And I don’t think we should get that same kind again,” Jared sits on the back of the couch and rests his foot on his mom’s thigh. “I mean, I know it was on sale but it totally made Harley fart. Are we gonna go to Wal-Mart tomorrow? We should. I think I’m out of deodorant and we need more toothpaste and – “
“Jared!” Sherri bellows. Jared lets out a whimper. She snatches Jared’s phone off of the table and flips it open, pressing a button before bringing it to her ear. Jared raises an eyebrow.
“What are you doing?” Jared asks. He shakes her hip with his socked foot. “Who are you calling? Give me my phone!”
“Jensen?” Sherri asks. Jared scrambles off of the couch. “Yeah, I’m gonna need you to talk to Jared before I wring his freaking neck. Here.”
“Mom! That was so embarrassing, what you just did!” Jared snatches the phone and glares at her before storming into his room. “Hello?”
“Uh, hey,” Jensen says cautiously. “What’s going on?”
“She’s pissed at me because according to her I always get super chatty the night before Day of Silence,” Jared says, rolling his eyes. “I have no idea what she’s talking about. Anyway. What did you have for dinner? My mom made this casserole thing that I thought was going to be gross but it actually turned out really good. And then I gave the dogs some because they were begging and then Sadie threw it up. So, that sucked. But we had cheesecake for dessert. Bonus points.”
“Jared,” Jensen laughs. “I think she has a point.”
“Really?” Jared chuckles and switches his phone to the other ear. “Well, shit. So how are you? Tell me. I’ll be quiet.”
“Well, just another boring night in the Ackles household,” Jensen says quietly. “My mom is acting even more holier than thou than usual. I don’t know what that’s about. I just finished my homework and I was about to go to bed. That’s… about it.”
“Titillating,” Jared laughs, stretching and kicking off his jeans. He sets the phone down to pull off his shirt and grabs it again quickly. “I should probably go to sleep here soon too. Gotta get up super early, and I think I talked myself into exhaustion.”
“About that,” Jensen says hesitantly just as Jared face plants into his pillow. He quickly rolls over onto his back and stares at the ceiling. “I know we haven’t really talked about it, but – I mean, you’re okay with the fact that I’m not participating, right?”
Jared bites his lip and sits up to run his fingers through his hair. He stares at his blank television screen and tries to come up with the right words to say.
“Jensen.” He makes sure to pitch his voice low and soothing. “Look, you know that someday I’d like everyone to know about us. But I know that isn’t possible right now, and I understand that. I’m just happy to be with you, Jen, any way I can get you.”
“Okay,” Jensen replies in a shaky little voice. Jared pinches the bridge of his nose. “Jared, you know I – I mean –”
“I know, Jensen,” Jared says softly. “You don’t have anything to worry about, okay?”
“Okay.” Jensen lets out a deep breath. He sounds exhausted, weighed down. “I think I’m going to go to sleep.”
“Sure thing, Jen,” Jared tells him as he pulls his covers up to search for his remote. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Tomorrow,” Jensen echoes. “Night, Jared.”
“Night.” Jared hangs up the phone and sighs, scrubbing his hand over his face. He plugs in his phone and makes sure the alarm is set before turning his TV on low and settling into bed. “NIGHT, MOM!”
“Shut the fuck UP!” She screams back, and Jared chuckles as his eyes slip shut.
He needs his sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.
Jensen is sort of blown away by the amount of people participating in Day of Silence.
Just on the way from the front of campus to his English classroom he sees throngs of people dressed in black. Almost all of them have Chad’s pins adorning their shirts next to a rainbow colored ribbon.
Jensen knew from Jared that their school had an unusually large and active GSA, but he completely underestimated the amount of people that would be taking part in this event. Much more than just the amount of the GSA. It’s sort of incredible.
The classroom is unusually quiet as Jensen takes his usual seat in the back. Jared skids in just before the bell and the sight of him makes Jensen choke on a sharp intake of air. He’s dressed in a tight black button down with the sleeves rolled up just past his elbows and a pair of black slacks. He’s wearing his black Converse with the rainbow shoelaces and his smile is a little less radiant than usual.
Jensen figures that it’s because as excited as Jared was for this event, the theme isn’t exactly a happy one.
Jared swings into his seat and pulls a pad of sticky notes out of his pocket. He scribbles something down on one of them and rips it off the pad, leaning over to stick it on Jensen’s cheek. He raises an eyebrow and pulls it off, turning it around to look at it.
It reads Hey! in Jared’s messy scrawl, and Jensen smiles. He turns his head to reply but Jared is digging around in his bag. He sits up and sets a Hershey’s Kiss on Jensen’s desk. Jensen takes the chocolate and bites his lip as Jared sets his speaking card down.
Class seems to crawl by unusually slow. Mrs. Chandler gives a halfhearted lesson about their current reading assignment and Jensen struggles to pay attention. He’s too busy staring at Jared, too weighed down by his thoughts.
“Jensen?” She asks, and he looks over at her. He has no idea what she’s said in the last five minutes and he swallows hard. “What can you tell me about what Of Mice and Men has to teach us about the nature of human existence?”
Jensen blinks. There are so many things he could say about the topic, a whole handful of answers he could give, but when he opens his mouth no sound comes out.
Thing is, he’s tired.
He’s tired of being torn in two different directions. He’s sick of hiding and pretending to be something he’s not. He’s done with being unhappy when he should have all the happiness in the world.
It’s time to make a decision. It’s time to take a stand for something for once in his damn life. He needs to reach out and fully grab what he wants. Finally.
His hand is trembling as he reaches over to take the speaking card from Jared’s desk. His boyfriend looks over at him with a confused expression and his eyes widen as Jensen lifts it in the air. His heart is beating wildly, blood pulsing through his veins.
He tenses like he’s waiting for some sort of blow, but absolutely nothing happens.
“Sure thing, Jensen,” Mrs. Chandler says warmly. A few people turn to look at him for a moment before facing front again, but that’s it. “I’ll get you on Monday. Would anyone else like to take the question?”
Jensen sets the card down and leans forward to rest his forehead on the cool surface of the desk. Jared tugs on his shirtsleeve and Jensen turns his head, cheek pressed against the wood as he looks over. Jared’s eyes are wide and his cheeks are pink. He looks confused and hopeful, and Jensen smiles a little. He feels good, all things considering.
Jared opens his mouth and snaps it shut, looking a little frustrated as he leans over his sticky pad again. He tears off another piece and smacks it down onto Jensen’s desk. He sits up to read it.
What the hell are you doing?
Jensen looks over at Jared for a long time, feeling calm and happy just at the sight of him. He takes his candy and unwraps it, popping it into his mouth as he picks up his pen to write a reply.
What I want to do.
Jensen knows there will be consequences of this decision. But right now? He can’t bring himself to care.
Jared is in high spirits when he meets the group in front of the cafeteria at lunch. Jensen nudges his shoulder when he arrives and gives him a private smile. Jensen is the only one not wearing black, and he looks a little out of place in his jeans and dark blue polo shirt.
Everyone is still as Jensen steps up to Chad. He pokes at the pink button pinned to Chad’s shirt and then points to his own chest. The blush on his cheeks as he tries to get his point across using only charades is completely adorable.
Chad looks confused and everyone else looks surprised, but when Jensen glances over at Jared, he gives him a proud smile. Jensen grins and tugs on Chad’s pin again.
“What? Are you serious?” Chad asks, and everyone throws their hands up in the air. “Shit! God – “ Chad slaps his hand over his mouth and Jensen bites down on a laugh, holding out his palm expectantly.
Chad swings his bag around to the front and digs into it to extract a pink button and a small strip of rainbow fabric twisted and pinned into a ribbon. Jensen takes the items with a nod and comes to stand in front of Jared. He drops the pins in Jared’s hand and tilts his chin up slightly.
Jared’s fingers are shaking slightly as he fastens the pins to Jensen’s shirt, fingers brushing bare skin. There are people looking at them as they pass, but Jensen doesn’t seem to notice. His eyes are locked firmly on Jared’s and his gaze doesn’t waver.
People have been asking Jared about him and Jensen for weeks, and he’s always dodged the question. But now, as he rests his palm flat over Jensen’s heart for a moment, he thinks he won’t have to.
They get their food in collective silence and head out to their outside spot without a word. They all flop down onto the grass and use each other’s body parts as pillows as usual. The only difference is that this time Jensen joins them. He rests his head on Jared’s stomach and his foot on Misha’s thigh. He seems at ease, completely happy with his decision for the time being.
Jared basks in the sunshine and plays idly with Jensen’s hair. This day is always one of pride and accomplishment but right now, in this moment, he’s never been more proud in his life.
Jensen lasts the entire day without speaking, which in itself isn’t much of an accomplishment considering he rarely speaks when he isn’t around Jared anyway. But still, it’s the reason he chose to keep his mouth shut that speaks volumes.
It’s not often that Jensen meets up with Jared after school. Jared usually has some sort of activity and Jensen will either go home or wait in the library. The Breaking the Silence rally is scheduled to start at 3:30, and everyone was going to head there after the last bell to help set up. Jensen originally didn’t include himself in on those plans, but now he figures he might as well go all the way.
On his way to the gym he spots Jared, Chad, and Sandy rushing in the opposite direction. They seem preoccupied, expressions pinched as they quickly make their way towards the front of campus.
Jensen pauses as an unsettling feeling forms in the pit of his stomach. He decides to follow them. There is a surprising amount of noise filtering from the parking lot, and Jensen watches as students in head to toe black rush across the courtyard and disappear between the front office and the cafeteria towards the source of all the commotion.
He loses sight of Jared in the thrall and his breathing speeds up as he races forward. He keeps his head down as he makes his way through the small crowd to find Jared at the front. He’s standing tall with his feet planted and his fists clenched, looking angry and defiant as he stares straight ahead.
Jensen looks up to find himself on the frontlines of a battle he had chosen sides in but wasn’t yet prepared to fight.
On the other side of the street, just on the edge of campus, protestors are gathered. There aren’t that many, far fewer than the amount of students gathered on the opposite side, but it’s enough to make an impression. They’re all carrying picket signs and wearing tee shirts with anti-gay messages on them, and Jensen’s heart stops beating as he focuses on the protestor standing front and center.
Jensen’s eyes lock on his mother at the same moment she recognizes him. They stare at each other, horrified and devastated. There’s a man standing next to her with a loudspeaker. He’s preaching into it about how homosexuality is a sin, how they’re all going to Hell.
Jensen’s first instinct is to flee, but his feet are frozen to the ground. The world is falling down around him and Jensen can’t take his eyes off of his mother.
She’s never looked more ugly, more horrible and cruel. He’s never wanted to distance himself from her more than he does in that moment.
Jared lets out a gasp next to him, looking from Jensen’s trembling form to the group of protestors and back like he just recognized who he’s standing up against. Jensen shoots him a desperate look before turning his gaze back on his mother. She stares back with a callous hatred that he has never seen before and he shudders under the weight of it.
All around him people are linking hands, threading fingers with their allies and standing united against their common enemy. He looks around at the sea of brave, determined faces. He sees a few pairs of eyes swimming with tears, struggling with hardship, but they never waver. He wants to be as strong as these people. He wants to fight with them.
He tears his eyes away from the train wreck in front of him, the loud swarming mass of hate, to look at Jared. He’s so beautiful, so proud and strong in the face of so much adversity. He never stops fighting for what he wants. He never gives up. Jensen is in awe of how much he can bend and not break, of all the weight he can carry on his shoulders.
Jensen is standing in the middle of a literal incarnation of the war he’s been battling inside his head for months, wavering between good and evil, and he has to decide which side is which. He looks around at his peers, at their linked hands and defiant expressions before looking back at the protestors with their hands clasped tightly around their picket signs, hateful scowls marring their faces.
He thinks about how the people behind him have made him feel over the past few months and compares it to how the people in front of him have made him feel for a lifetime, and it’s like the choice is already made.
It’s not hard to take a step backward and be welcomed into the fold. Sandy takes his hand and he holds it tight as he looks over at Jared. Their eyes meet and with just one glance Jensen knows this is worth fighting for. He takes Jared’s wrist and wraps his fingers around it, thumb tucked underneath his jelly bracelets.
It’s a mirror image of the simple touch Jared uses to let Jensen know that he’s there for him, that he’ll never stop fighting and he’ll never let go. Jensen can only hope it translates, that it’ll mean the same the other way around.
He can tell by the look on Jared’s face that it does.
His mother has started screaming louder and waving her sign higher, but her burning eyes never leave Jensen’s distraught face. Finally she lowers her sign with her gaze blazing threateningly on Jensen as she retreats.
Taking a stand here might have been a simple choice, but now he has his own battle to fight. He doesn’t think it’ll be this easy.
He pulls his hand away from Sandy’s and looks over at Jared. He lets go of Jared’s wrist but he catches his hand, eyes boring deep into his.
“I have to,” Jensen whispers. Jared’s eyes are wet and shiny as he nods slowly. He pulls on Jensen’s bracelet once before letting go altogether. Jensen takes all the strength he can from the look in Jared’s eyes. He tries to be proud and strong and brave, and he steps away from the group.
He takes off into a jog and he can’t help but to feel like the world is spinning.
This is everything he was afraid of. This is everything he’s been waiting for.
This is it.
Jared swallows hard and pulls the phone away from his ear, flipping it shut and bringing it to his mouth. Sandy comes over to sit next to him and rests her hand on his knee.
“Still nothing?” She asks. Jared shakes his head and gives her a sad smile.
“His phone is off.” Jared shoves his fingers into his hair as he leans back against the wall.
“I hope he’s okay,” Sophia says as she drops down next to her girlfriend. Chad and Misha share a concerned look and sit down on two backwards chairs, resting their chins on their hands.
“He’s stronger than he thinks he is,” Jared mumbles as he stares down at his silent phone. His chest is tight with worry and fear, but he knows Jensen can handle this.
All Jared can do is wait, and be ready when Jensen needs him.
Jensen stalls as much as he can; wandering through the park with his hands shoved in his pockets as he mentally prepares himself.
Finally he has to admit that he knows his parents all too well. No miracle will occur tonight.
He walks through the front door of his house with his chin held high, but he knows this particular story won’t have a happy ending.
His parents are sitting in the living room, stony and quiet. His mother has a glass of wine in her delicate hand and his father’s hands are clenched into fists on his lap.
“Jensen,” his father growls out. He swallows hard. “Explain yourself. Now.”
Jensen wants to demand that they explain themselves. He wants to know how they can survive with so much hate in their hearts. Doesn’t it eat them up inside?
It’s sort of funny when Jensen thinks about it. He’s spent years being terrified of this exact moment. It’s kept him up at night, made him cry and made him feel worthless and weak. And now that it’s here, he’s not scared. He’s actually strangely calm, a strong resolve tinged with an edge of residual nervousness.
He just wants the moment to end.
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Jensen says. He blinks and looks over at his mother. “You know what you saw.”
“I saw you with those – those people,” his mother spits. “There were whispers at the church of you running with a bad crowd, but I didn’t dare believe it. I thought we had taught you the difference between right and wrong.”
“I have a perfect understanding of the difference between right and wrong,” Jensen says sternly. He thinks of Jared and Sherri and all the good they put out into the world, about how hard they work and how they ask for nothing in return. “But I didn’t learn it from you.”
“You watch your mouth, young man,” his father demands in his irritating southern drawl. His mother looks at him again, wet eyes blazing.
“I saw you,” she says, with disgust dripping from every syllable. “I saw you with that boy.”
“That boy is very important to me,” Jensen gets out. He’s proud of the way he keeps his voice from trembling. His father suddenly slams his fist down on the arm of his chair and stands up, tossing his newspaper to the floor. Jensen tenses slightly and his mother jumps up as well, nervous eyes darting between her husband and her son.
“That’s it, Jensen!” He shouts. Jensen swallows hard as he stares at him with wide eyes. “I won’t stand for this. You are never to see that filthy pervert again, you hear me?”
“You can pray for forgiveness,” his mother says steadfastly, and Jensen struggles to breathe. “You can repent for your sins.”
“That’s – that’s just not going to happen,” Jensen says breathlessly while shaking his head. The mere thought of never seeing Jared again is too painful, too ridiculous to even comprehend.
“Jensen, there’s no room for discussion,” his father says, and his eyes are wide with fury. His voice is so loud and Jensen struggles not to cower before him. But he is not bending on this. There is no way he’s cutting out the best thing in his life to make someone else happy. “This is how it’s going to be.”
“No, it’s not,” Jensen says defiantly. His hands shake as he takes a brave step forward. His father’s eyes widen like he’s surprised that his weak, cowardly son seems to be standing up for himself. “I want to be with him.”
“No,” his father replies loudly just as his mother places a prim, shocked hand over her mouth. “Why would you want something like that?”
“Because I’m gay!” Jensen shouts. The word reverberates around the room like a gunshot. His parents flinch and Jensen blinks. For all he’s gone through, that’s the first time he’s actually said it out loud. It feels good, a little like release. It feels like honesty. It feels right.
“No,” his father repeats loudly. “I don’t even want to hear you – “
“I’m gay,” Jensen says again, a little louder. He lets out a harsh breath and says it again, quieter and a little awed, mostly to himself. “I’m gay.”
Jensen is nearly knocked off of his feet when his father’s fist connects with his jaw in a powerful and unexpected punch. He feels his lip tear against his teeth and he takes a staggering step back as pain blossoms from his jaw and outward, intense and white hot.
“I said I didn’t want to hear that come out of your mouth again,” his father says, but he’s blinking down at his hand like he’s a little shocked. His mother gasps and it takes a moment for the sudden shock to wear off. Jensen shakes his head to clear the dizziness and reaches up to touch the corner of his mouth. His fingers come away wet and sticky with blood.
Jensen has never been hit before, and to have it come with such force from his own father just cements what he was already coming to understand. He doesn’t want to be around these people.
It’s sort of a sad realization to come to, but he doesn’t feel like a part of this family anymore. He doesn’t know if he ever did.
“You can’t beat it out of me,” Jensen says. There are tears in his eyes but he blames it on the split lip and sore jaw. “This is who I am. I’m gay. I didn’t choose it, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t change it. But now I don’t even want to anymore. I like who I am. I like how that boy makes me feel.”
“I don’t want to hear this,” his father says, waving a dismissive hand. Jensen takes a step forward and gives his father a blood-tinged, slightly hysterical smile.
“I’m happy,” Jensen says strongly. “And for once in my life neither of you can take it away from me.”
Jensen shuts his eyes tight as his father fists both hands in his shirt and slams him against the wall. He forces his eyes open even as the wind is knocked out of him and he struggles to meet his father’s hateful glare.
“You have five minutes to get the hell out of this house,” he spits out. Jensen blinks owlishly and trembles in his father’s tight grasp. “You’re not a part of this family anymore.”
“Alan,” his mother gasps out, and his father finally releases his grip. Jensen sags against the wall and blinks against the sting in his eyes. He looks over at his mother but she says nothing more. She just stares at Jensen with a strange mixture of contempt and regret.
Jensen nods and turns to head up the stairs on unstable feet. His breath is hitching in his chest but he can’t fall apart, not yet. He comes up to his bedroom door and rests his forehead against it, taking a moment to compose himself.
A soft touch on his shoulder makes him jump and he turns to see his little sister with tears in her eyes. Mackenzie – he’d almost forgotten. He stands up straight and waits for her to condemn him as well.
He tries to hide his surprise when she reaches up to press a warm, wet cloth to his split lip. She sniffs a little and Jensen stares at her.
“He’s what has been making you happy,” she says, and Jensen nods a little. Mackenzie smiles sadly and pulls the cloth away, folding it over to hide the blood. “What’s his name?”
“Jared,” Jensen whispers roughly. He swallows hard as Mackenzie nods. Two tears roll down her cheeks and Jensen wants to sob. He had no idea she cared so much about him. He had no idea he cared so much about her. She’s his baby sister, and he’s leaving her.
“You should be with him,” she tells him. “Nothing that makes you smile like you have been can be bad.”
Jensen nods and opens the door to his room to stumble inside. Mackenzie helps him stuff his clothes into a duffle bag. He doesn’t take much else – the laptop and other electronics he saved up for and bought himself along with his CDs and school stuff. The bag is full and heavy by the time they’re done, and he huffs a breath and runs his fingers through his hair before readjusting his glasses.
Mackenzie writes something down on a piece of paper and hands it over sheepishly. It’s a phone number. Jensen blinks and stares at her.
“It’s my phone number,” she replies. “I, uh – saved up and bought one of those pay as you go phones. They don’t know about it. Please stay in touch with me?”
“I will,” Jensen promises and sticks the scrap of paper in his pocket. There’s an awkward moment before they’re both moving forward and wrapping their arms around each other. Jensen squeezes his eyes shut as he feels a tear roll down his cheek. He can’t remember the last time they hugged like this, and it’s a shame it’s finally happening because he has to say goodbye.
Mackenzie lingers in his room as he hefts the bag over his shoulder, wincing as he carries it down the stairs. His father is back in his armchair and reading the paper like nothing ever happened. His mother is on the sofa with her face in her hands. Jensen pulls his keys out of his pocket and stares at the shiny silver house key all alone on a little silver ring. He takes a deep breath, places the key quietly on the small table by the door, and leaves without so much as a backwards glance.
It’s nothing but sheer force of will that gets him to Jared’s house. He’s exhausted from carrying all of his belongings and his chest aches from trying to hold himself together. He finally heaves himself up onto the sagging porch and drops the bag with a grunt as he rings the doorbell.
The dogs start up and Sherri yells at them. It’s so comforting Jensen almost smiles. She pulls the door open and tucks her messy hair behind her ears in a familiar gesture. It’s just past dusk and she flicks on the porch light. Jensen blinks against the sudden brightness.
“Jensen? What happened?” She looks from Jensen’s forlorn expression and his tender jaw to the overstuffed bag on her porch.
“I – They kicked me out. “ He struggles to get the words out, chest hitching with each breath. “I didn’t know where else to go.”
“Oh, Bean.” She surges forward to wrap an arm around him, grabbing his bag with one hand and dragging it over the threshold as she pulls him inside. “He hit you?”
Jensen doesn’t answer, too busy blinking back tears. The dogs come over to sniff at him but they seem to sense the gravity of the situation because they simply whine and retreat to their corner.
She pulls him into the kitchen and puts some ice in a zip-lock bag before wrapping it in a dish towel. She presses it against the corner of his mouth and he hisses slightly. She makes an apologetic noise and cups the back of his head.
“Jared?” He mumbles out pathetically, voice muffled against the towel. She bites her lip and drags her nails across his scalp soothingly.
“He’s still at the rally,” she says softly. “Baby, he’s so worried about you. I’ll call him, but first I want to show you something, okay?”
Jensen furrows his brow as she sets the ice down on the counter and steers him down the hall. Sherri’s room is at the very end and on the right is Jared’s bedroom. The door across from it is the storage-slash-guest room. Jensen has never been inside.
This is the door she brings him to. Jensen’s forehead crinkles in confusion as she opens the door and leads him inside. She flips on the light and clears her throat as she comes in to stand next to him.
It’s a nice room. The walls are a soft tan and the bedding is ocean blue with chocolate accents. Matching curtains fall over the window, and there’s a small wooden dresser and matching desk on the opposite wall.
“Do you like it?” Sherri asks tentatively. “All I really had to go on was your favorite color.”
It hits Jensen then, and he nearly staggers against the force of it. He blinks rapidly as his eyes land on a framed photo of him and Jared hanging on the wall. He remembers Sherri taking it; just a random candid of them lying together on the floor, dozing in and out with Jared’s arm slung over his hips and a dog on either side of them.
“Sherri, is this – did you – oh god.” He looks over at her and feels such a rush of warmth and affection for this incredible woman in front of him that he doesn’t know how to contain it. She shrugs like it was no big deal, like she doesn’t mean the world to him.
“I have to admit, Jensen, that I saw this coming a long time ago,” Sherri says as she looks around the room. “And well, I want you to stay here. And it’s not because of pity, and it’s not out of charity. It’s because you’re a part of this family now, and the house feels a little empty without you.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Jensen replies shakily. “No one has ever done anything like this for me. I just – “
A tear slips down his cheek and she rushes forward to envelop him in a crushing hug. He wraps his arms around her and rests his chin on her shoulder, taking a deep breath and wondering what he did to deserve these amazing people in his life.
Jared gets the call from his mom that Jensen is at their house and that he’s safe. He’s a little hurt and a lot upset, but he’s okay. She tells him that Jensen needs him.
He leaves his friends to take care of the rally and gets Misha to give him a ride home, not willing to waste time getting there on foot. The car barely comes to a stop before he’s scrambling out of it, running up the walkway and jumping onto the porch.
He nearly trips over something on his way through the living room and looks back to see a large duffle bag. His heart sinks a little, but it’s not unexpected. The living room is empty so Jared skids around the hall. The only open door is the spare room, but Jared doesn’t take the time to question it as he goes through it.
He notices the new paint and furniture along with the framed picture on the wall, and he vows to get his mom an extra special Mother’s Day present.
She’s sitting on the bed with Jensen and rubbing his back in soothing circles. He looks up as Jared approaches, and the pain in Jensen’s wet eyes nearly breaks him.
The split lip and blossoming bruise on Jensen’s face makes him shake with rage, but anger isn’t the emotion he needs right now. He takes a deep breath and sits down on the other side of Jensen, wrapping one arm around him and pressing a kiss to his temple. His mom does the same and squeezes Jensen tightly before letting go.
She gets up and Jared gives her a fiercely grateful look as she leaves the room. She hits the light switch on the way out, leaving the room lit only by the soft light of the moon filtering in through the window.
“It’s over,” Jensen whispers. He sounds tired and defeated. “They know everything, and they – they don’t want me anymore.”
“I want you,” Jared says automatically, the words spilling out in a tumbled rush against Jensen’s skin. “We want you. You have a home here.”
Jensen nods and Jared kisses his cheek as his hand strokes up and down Jensen’s back. He toes off his shoes and leans down to tug off Jensen’s.
“It hurts,” Jensen admits in a choked voice. Jared bites his lip and his eyes sting as he stretches out on the bed. He rolls onto his side and pulls Jensen down with him, his back fitting against Jared’s chest. Jared wraps both arms around his torso, hooks his chin over Jensen’s shoulder, and tucks his knees into the back of Jensen’s.
“I know it does,” Jared whispers as he holds him even tighter. He can feel Jensen shaking in his arms, shoulders quaking and breath hitching. “It’s okay, Jen. I’ve got you. You can let go.”
Jensen reaches up to wrap his fingers around Jared’s forearms, nails digging in slightly. He’s silent for a few minutes before he starts to cry. Softly at first, but it’s not long before he’s sobbing, pained sounds being wrenched from him as he shakes in Jared’s grasp.
Jared just holds him through it. It hurts to see but he knows Jensen needs it. He’s kept too much pent up for too long, and now it’s all come to a head. He needs to let it out.
It seems to go on forever, Jensen sobbing and clutching at Jared desperately, pressing back against him like he’s his only anchor to the here and now. Jared never lets go. He just keeps his forehead pressed against the back of Jensen’s neck while tears slip silently from his own eyes.
Jensen’s pain is tangible in the air, something real and devastating, and it’s impossible not to feel it. He would do anything to take it away, but he knows all he can do right now is hold Jensen together when all he wants to do is fall apart.
The sobs finally start to subside and Jensen heaves one last sigh before calming down a little. Jared tugs lightly at his shoulder and Jensen rolls over to face him. His eyes are red and swollen, sore looking, and Jared presses a soft kiss to his brow.
Jensen looks exhausted, fed up and worn out, and Jared can’t blame him. He wrangles the covers out from underneath their bodies and pulls it over them before gathering Jensen’s lax, sleepy body up in his arms. His hand slips under the back of his shirt to rest against bare skin and Jensen sighs, tucking his head under Jared’s chin and resting his hands against Jared’s chest.
“Get some sleep, Jen.” Jared suggests gently, rubbing his back up and down. Jensen blinks and Jared can feel the tickle of his eyelashes against his skin.
“Don’t leave, okay?” Jensen asks in a tiny, desperate voice as he tangles his fingers in Jared’s shirt. Jared swallows hard and holds Jensen even tighter. He slips one of his thighs between Jensen’s legs and kisses the top of his head.
“Not going anywhere,” Jared whispers, pressing another kiss to his hair. “I promise.”
Jensen nods and sags against Jared, lashes fluttering against his skin. Everything is calm for a few moments, and he thinks Jensen might have fallen asleep.
“I don’t regret it,” Jensen whispers suddenly as he tugs lightly at Jared’s shirt. Jared’s eyes brim with tears again and he draws a lopsided heart on Jensen’s back with the tip of his finger. “I don’t regret you.”
Jensen doesn’t say another word as he falls into a deep sleep all wrapped up in Jared’s arms.
Onto Part 8.