The downside of spring break is that Jensen has to spend more time at home.
On Tuesday his mother invites a bunch of old women over for brunch. They’re downstairs eating finger sandwiches and talking about Jesus.
Jensen sneaks out the back door.
He doesn’t like being away from Jared. It gives him too much time to think and he doesn’t always like what he has to think about. It’s too easy to forget about everything when he’s around Jared, and that’s an escape he’s quickly starting to rely on.
It’s still sort of early when Jensen hops up on Jared’s porch. He checks his phone to see that it’s barely eleven. Jensen bites his lip as he knocks. He’s never just dropped by unannounced before. The dogs start barking shrilly and Jensen jumps.
“Get back, goddamn it!” He hears Sherri scream. Jensen takes a step back. The door opens a crack and Sherri sticks her head out. “Oh hey, Jensen!”
“Hi, Sherri,” Jensen says shyly. Sadie squirms out of the cracked door and Jensen catches her by the collar as she tries to run away.
“Come in before I commit animal cruelty,” Sherri tells him, holding Harley at bay with her foot as Jensen slips into the house with Sadie. “They only listen to Jared. Well, sometimes.”
“Is Jared here?” Jensen asks as he leans over to scratch the dogs behind the ears. Sherri looks at her watch and sighs, tucking her hair behind her ears. She looks so young; so normal and loving. Jensen barely knows her but he already adores her.
“He’s off saving orphans from burning buildings or same variation thereof,” Sherri tells him. “You know him – Jared Padalecki, Gay Crusader. All he needs is a damn cape.”
“They could shine a rainbow light in the sky?” Jensen asks timidly. He grabs at Sadie’s paws when she jumps up on him. Sherri smirks and looks at Jensen fondly.
“They could! But no, kiddo,” Sherri says seriously. “He isn’t here right now. He’s, well – dealing with something. But you can wait if you want. I’m just starting a batch of cupcakes if you want to help?”
“I don’t know how to bake,” Jensen admits, scratching the back of his head. Sherri just rolls her eyes and gestures towards the kitchen before turning around to head towards it. Jensen doesn’t know what to do other than follow her.
Being in Jared’s hot kitchen with his frazzled mother beats being at home avoiding his own mother any day.
“So what’s going on with Jared?” Jensen asks. He pulls himself up onto the counter when Sherri pats it. “You look worried.”
Sherri sighs and wipes her hands on her apron before turning around to lean against the counter. Jensen lifts an eyebrow, suddenly afraid she’s going to give him some bad news.
“Do you know Tessa?” Sherri asks. Jensen racks his brain for a moment. Tessa is a small dark-haired girl. She’s a member of GSA and Jared has known her since middle school.
“I’ve met her,” Jensen says, and Sherri nods. “What’s going on?”
“Tessa has this boyfriend that’s a real piece of work,” Sherri tells him. “She called Jared in the middle of the night asking him to come pick her up from his house because they were fighting. And he just hasn’t come home yet.”
“What?” Jensen shrieks. His heart rate accelerates and Sherri holds up her hands.
“He texted me a few hours ago,” she says. “He’s fine. He’s just not home yet.”
“Okay.” Jensen lets out a breath. “But next time? You might wanna lead with ‘he’s fine’.”
“Sorry,” Sherri chuckles, pushing her hair back again. “It’s just – sometimes I wish he’d stop worrying about everyone else’s problems and just be a teenager.”
“He helps a lot of people,” Jensen says quietly. “He’s helping me.”
“Baby, I know,” Sherri replies. “I’m just worrying about my kid. I’m a mom. It’s what we do. Now come here and mix up my frosting.” Jensen hops off the counter and stands at Sherri’s side. She sets a giant bowl of white frosting in front of him and squeezes a few drops of red food coloring into it. “Mix.”
“Pink.” Jensen chuckles. “I am so surprised.”
“Act like you don’t want some pink cupcakes.” She bumps her hip against his and winks. Jensen picks up the spatula and begins mixing the frosting.
“Try as I might,” Jensen replies. “I just can’t deny that I want these pink cupcakes in my belly.”
“Knew it,” she replies. She shifts her weight and blows her bangs out of her face. “Hey, uh, what’s your favorite color?”
“Um.” Jensen pauses his stirring to think about the random question. He figures ‘the color of your son’s eyes when he smiles’ would be a corny, lame, and entirely inappropriate answer. Doesn’t make it any less true. “Ocean blue, I guess. Why?”
“No reason.” She smiles sweetly at him. “Just curious about you. Mine’s red.”
“Oh,” Jensen says. Sherri winks at him. He’s a little lost but he just shrugs it off and attributes it to her quirkiness.
They work in comfortable silence. Jensen mixes the pink frosting and Sherri mixes the chocolate batter. She clears her throat after awhile and bumps Jensen’s hip again.
“So how are things going at home?” She asks delicately. Jensen tenses, furrows his brow and beats the frosting harder. “You don’t have to tell me.”
“No, it’s just – well, I hate it,” Jensen says bluntly, eyes trained on the sugary pink confection in the bowl. “But that’s nothing new.”
“Oh, kid.” Sherri wraps her arm around Jensen’s shoulders and presses a kiss to his temple. “I know it’s rough, but you gotta live your life, you know? You have to be happy.”
“I’m starting to realize that,” Jensen says as his eyes start prickling slightly. “Jared makes me happy. He’s amazing, Sherri.”
“He is,” Sherri agrees. “But it ain’t all genes. You turned out pretty fantastic, too. It’s the choices we make that shape who we become. You just have to make the ones that feel right to you and whatever happens, happens.”
“Yeah,” Jensen agrees quietly and Sherri pokes him on the nose, leaving a smear of chocolate behind. Jensen scrunches up his nose and smiles at her. He knows where Jared got his heart.
Jensen holds the pan steady while Sherri pours the batter into all the cups. She puts the pan in the oven and sets the timer before wiping her hands on her apron again. She opens the cupboard and starts rifling through it.
“You get to pick the topping,” Sherri says as she gets up on her toes to dig. “We have about fifteen different types of rainbow sprinkles because Jared likes to make a statement. Chocolate sprinkles? God, there’s so much shit in here.”
Jensen laughs and the dogs suddenly start up. Sherri closes the cupboard and Jensen perks up. The front door opens and closes and they hear Jared tiredly shushing the dogs. Jensen blushes suddenly. What will Jared think of him spending all day with his mother?
The thought dies quickly when Jared rounds the corner. He tosses his keys on the dining room table and turns towards them. Sherri gasps and Jensen’s eyes widen.
“Oh, Jen.” Jared gives him a sleepy smile. “Hey.”
“Jared!” Sherri yells as she rushes over to him. “What the fuck happened to your face?”
She cups his cheek in her hand gently. Her thumb swipes across the bruise underneath his eye and makes him hiss. Jared grabs her hand and lowers it as he leans in to press a kiss to the top of her head.
“It’s nothing, Mom,” he says softly. “Troy apparently didn’t appreciate me getting in the middle of their business. But it’s fine. I drove Tess out to her mom’s in Napa. That’s why I was gone so long. Sorry.”
Jensen doesn’t know how to comprehend seeing Jared hurt. It makes him shake and tears him up inside. He takes a shaky step forward. He wants to make sure Jared is okay but he doesn’t want to intrude. He feels a stinging behind his eyes but it’s stupid because Jared’s fine. He’s walking and talking and standing right in front of him and he’s fine.
Jared hugs his mother and Jensen sees the scrapes on Jared’s knuckles. He’s tough. He can defend himself. That doesn’t mean he should have to. Jensen bites down hard on his lip.
“You need to knock it off with this shit,” Sherri says, looking up at Jared sternly. She’s not very scary. At her full height she still only comes up to Jared’s collarbone and she’s wiping chocolate sticky bangs out of her face. “Quit trying to fix everyone.”
“I’m sorry, okay?” Jared asks loudly. He nearly sways on his feet. It’s obvious that he hasn’t slept at all. “She called me. What was I supposed to do, leave her there?”
“You’re supposed to quit playing everyone’s goddamn hero when you’ve got your own life to live!” Sherri yells, and Jared flinches. Jensen shrinks back into the kitchen. His back hits the refrigerator and sends magnets clattering to the floor.
Jared and Sherri both jump and turn to face him. They look properly chagrined and Jensen hangs his head. He has a brief moment of insanity where he wonders if he’s just another charity case, if Jared is just playing hero to another helpless kid. But then Jared is touching his shoulder, thumb skirting the side of his neck, and Jensen feels guilty for even having the thought.
“Are you okay?” Jensen asks, looking up at the red-purple bruise marring Jared’s perfect face and making his eye swell. Jensen glances at Sherri over Jared’s shoulder, wondering if it’s okay to be so close to Jared like this in front of her.
“I’m fine, ice-pop,” Jared says, but Jensen isn’t trembling because he’s cold. “I’m a little tired.”
“You should go lay down,” Jensen tells him, reaching out to tug on the hem of his shirt.
“I’m totally – “ He pauses to let out a giant yawn. “ – fine. I smell cupcakes.”
“Jared,” Jensen says again. He lightly touches the bruise on Jared’s face. He hisses slightly and looks at Jensen with bloodshot eyes. “Sleep.”
“But – “
“Jared!” Sherri says as she goes into the kitchen to grab the bowl of frosting. “Let your boyfriend take care of you for awhile, okay? The cupcakes will be here when you wake up.”
Jared’s eyes widen and Jensen jumps a little, cheeks flushing with heat as he shoots Sherri a startled look. Jared rolls his lips into his mouth and sends his mother a glare over his shoulder. He wraps his fingers around Jensen’s wrist and leads him down the hall.
Jensen has never been in Jared’s bedroom before. The sheets are red and black and the bed is unmade. There are clothes and books and movies strewn all over the place and a laptop set haphazardly on the edge of a desk wedged in the corner. The walls are covered in pictures and a TV is on mute on top of his dresser. It looks like a teenager lives in here. A messy, electricity-wasting teenager.
“So, that happened,” Jared sighs as he shuts the door, turning around and running his fingers through his hair. He looks up at Jensen sheepishly. His cheeks are pink.
“You told your mom I was your boyfriend?” Jensen asks, tripping slightly over the word. Jared sighs and leans back against the door.
“I didn’t tell her that,” he says. He meets Jensen’s shy gaze with sleepy eyes. “I told her… things. She made an assumption.”
Jensen looks at Jared closely and feels the familiar flutter in his belly he gets whenever they’re alone together. Jared looks nervous but hopeful, and Jensen thinks about what Sherri said about making your own choices and being happy.
“I could be your boyfriend,” Jensen says, pulse fluttering as he gets the words out. He swallows hard and then smiles. He’s happy with his decision.
“I – you. What?” Jared splutters and blinks a few times. “Jen – really?”
“Well – yeah,” Jensen breathes, running his fingers through his hair. He hasn’t gotten it cut since he met Jared and it’s not so neat and tidy anymore. “I mean, I’m not ready to take an ad out in the paper or anything. But you and me? That’s – yeah, Jared. I mean, it makes sense.”
Jared stumbles across the room to stand in front of Jensen with a dopey grin on his face. Jensen’s eyes are drawn to the blossoming bruise and the slight puffiness of that eye. Jared looks exhausted but content and Jensen nudges him in the direction of his messy bed.
“Now will you please lay down?” Jensen asks. He chuckles as Jared collapses onto his bed. He rolls onto his back and looks up at Jensen with fond eyes. He scoots over to the wall, leaving half of his bed empty.
“I know I’m being a horrible host.” Jared yawns and stretches his limbs out. “But I promise I’ll make it up to you if you take a nap with me.”
“I could go for a nap,” Jensen says as his eyes travel over the long expanse of Jared’s body. He bites his lip. This isn’t accidentally falling asleep in Jared’s lap while watching a movie. This is intentional. Jensen lets out a breath and kicks off his shoes before climbing into bed with his – oh god, his boyfriend.
Jensen rolls onto his side and props his head up on his elbow as he pulls the covers up over them. Jared’s eyes slip shut with a soft hum and Jensen carefully touches the corner of Jared’s bruised eye, fingertips ghosting across heated skin.
“Does this hurt?” He asks. Jared’s brows rise slightly but he doesn’t open his eyes. Jensen has never seen him look so tired.
“A little,” Jared mumbles. Jensen leans in to press a feather-light kiss to the mark with his hand on Jared’s opposite cheek. “Mm, much better.”
When Jensen finally pulls back, Jared’s eyes are open and he’s staring at Jensen intently.
“What?” He asks. Jared’s lips quirk up into a lopsided smile.
“Trying to get you to kiss me using telepathy,” Jared sighs, shrugging one shoulder and settling deeper into his bed. “Guess I need to work on that.”
Jensen smirks and lets the tip of his pointer finger trail across Jared’s soft lips. Jared purses them out slightly against Jensen’s finger.
“You know,” Jensen says as his fingers trace Jared’s jaw. “You don’t always have to wait for me to kiss you. I mean, thank you for doing that at first, but – Jared, kissing you feels good. And when it’s just me and you like this, you don’t always have to make me come to you.”
“I just don’t want to scare you,” Jared says honestly, looking up at Jensen sleepily. “I don’t want to pressure you. I want you to always be comfortable around me.”
“Jared, you’ve never once made me feel pressured,” Jensen tells him. He lets his hand slide down the side of Jared’s neck and across his chest. “I’m not talking about – I don’t mean anything else. Just – if you want to kiss me and it feels right, do it.”
Jared barely lets him get the sentence out before he’s lifting his head and pressing their lips together gently. Jensen smiles into the kiss and leans over Jared to ease the strain on his neck. Their tongues tangle lazily for a moment before he pulls away, pressing their foreheads together.
“Sleep,” Jensen tells him. He curls up against his side and rests his head on Jared’s shoulder. He pulls the covers up to their chins and slips his hand under Jared’s shirt to rest on his belly. “I’ll be here when you wake up.”
“Promise?” Jared mumbles sleepily, pulling up the back of Jensen’s shirt to get his hand on bare skin. His touch makes Jensen shiver. It makes him warm all over.
“Duh,” Jensen says as his eyes slip shut. “There’s cupcakes in the oven.”
Jared is covered in sweat, calves burning with a sweet ache as he runs laps around the park. Each loop is marked off as a quarter mile and when he does twelve of them he jogs over to the basketball court.
He checks his watch and rolls his eyes. He turns the volume up on his iPod as he grabs his basketball and starts shooting baskets, relishing in the burn of his muscles.
After awhile Chad wanders up and Jared stares incredulously as he takes his ear buds out and loops the cord over his shoulders.
“You’re late,” Jared says as he looks his best friend up and down. He’s wearing a tee shirt and basketball shorts but also flip-flops, and he’s holding a soda in a blue koozie that reads Don’t be sexist. Broads hate that. in bright pink font. “How are you going to play in those shoes?”
“Dude, honestly?” Chad pushes his aviators up to rest on the top of his highlighted head. “You’re freakishly tall and even more freakishly good at this game. You’re just gonna run circles around me and dunk on me every five seconds and I don’t wanna deal with it. So I’m giving up. Bowing out gracefully, you might say.”
“You are such a failure,” Jared sighs. He shoots a basket and gets nothing but net.
“And you’re gay,” Chad retorts. “Your people aren’t even supposed to be good at sports.”
“And straight boys aren’t supposed to get pedicures every other week,” Jared replies as he runs over to get the ball.
“We’re just breaking stereotypes left and right.” Chad takes a sip from the crazy straw sticking out of his soda can. “And hey, just because I’m straight does not mean I should have to deal with toe funk.”
“I concede to your point,” Jared replies, tossing the ball in the air again. It hits the backboard and bounces off. Chad scampers off to get it, shoes slapping against the asphalt.
“Speaking of buttsex,” Chad says as he passes Jared the ball. Jared dribbles it from hand to hand and raises an eyebrow.
“We weren’t.” Jared runs a circle around Chad just because he can and shoots another basket. He makes it this time.
“Buttsex is always on topic,” Chad responds. The sunlight makes him squint and he puts his sunglasses back over his eyes. “How’s the gayby?”
“I really wish you’d stop calling Jensen a gayby.” Jared sighs and wipes the sweat from his forehead with his arm. Chad looks affronted and holds his arms out to the side.
“Jared. He likes boys and is shiny and new to all that is homo,” Chad tells him before taking another sip from his straw. “The term was coined for boys like Jensen. He is a fresh-faced, bright-eyed baby gay. Thus, he is a gayby.”
“Whatever,” Jared replies. “Jensen is super, thanks for asking.”
“Good.” Chad snatches the ball from Jared with his free hand and dribbles it. “He seems to be adjusting pretty well. ‘Cause, I gotta say – I did not see this going this well when it all started.”
“But you did say that,” Jared retorts as he snatches the ball back. “Loudly, if I can recall.”
“And I was obviously wrong.” Chad follows Jared around as he idly dribbles the ball. “I thought he was going to freak out and head for the hills, but he didn’t. He’s like, completely gone for you. I mean, you know that, right? He’s still super shy and quiet, but that much is obvious.”
Jared blushes and bites down on his smile. He tosses the ball and it sails effortlessly through the hoop.
“You make him happy. I mean, that boy was sad when he got here,” Chad continues, and Jared turns to face him. “And I’m not saying he’s suddenly all happy-happy joy-joy, but he’s doing good, you know?”
“Yeah,” Jared replies, scooping up the ball and bouncing it again. His heart is pounding at the mere thought of Jensen’s laugh. “He is.”
“Not to mention what he’s doing for you,” Chad says, and Jared looks over at him. “I know everyone thinks the sun comes out when you smile and rainbows shoot out of your ass and shit, but you weren’t that happy. I don’t think you were sad by any stretch, either. You were just – you were content. But not happy – not like you are now that you have Jensen.”
Jared blinks and stares at his best friend with one eyebrow arched. Chad isn’t wrong – he actually hit the nail on the head. Jared is happy now. Happier than he’s ever been.
“Since when are you all deep and observant and shit?” Jared asks and Chad shrugs as he gives him a trademark smirk.
“I have a lot of time on my hands,” Chad says simply. “When you’re out here in the heat scurrying around and asserting your sweaty manliness, I’m somewhere thinking and not smelling like the inside of a dirty asshole.”
Jared snorts and then throws the ball at Chad’s outstretched hand. It connects and sends his soda can, koozie, and straw combo flying. It all hits the ground and goes rolling across the asphalt, soda spilling and straw skittering away. Chad turns and looks at Jared incredulously, mouth agape.
“Okay, that? Fucked up,” Chad says, but Jared is too busy belly laughing at the expression on his face to respond. “If you broke my crazy straw I am kicking your fucking ass.”
Jared has to bend over and put his hands on his knees, he’s laughing so hard. Chad lets out an angry growl, and when the basketball connects with Jared’s hip he just laughs that much harder.
Saturday night after dinner Jensen bounces down the stairs with his hands in his pockets, intent on heading over to Jared’s for one last late night before school starts up again. He’s not planning on telling anyone where he’s going or when he’ll be back.
“Jensen.” He freezes on the bottom step at the sound of his father’s voice, shoulders tightening until they nearly touch his ears. He swallows hard and turns around to see his father sitting in his recliner with a newspaper open on his lap and glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. “I need to talk to you.”
Jensen’s stomach drops and his pulse pounds in his ears. His hands start to shake as he slowly walks over towards his father. He stops a few feet away and he pushes the ottoman out with his foot, gesturing for Jensen to sit on it. He does, head bowed and hands clenched into tight fists.
“Your mother wanted me to talk to you about the way you’ve been acting lately,” Alan says sternly, and Jensen swallows hard. “You’ve developed quite an attitude problem. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“No, sir,” Jensen says timidly, refusing to meet his father’s eyes. He sighs and Jensen squeezes his eyes shut.
“I think I know what’s going on with you,” Alan says. Jensen’s head snaps up. He’s about ready to cry and he’s shaking because how could he know? “You’ve met someone.”
“I – I don’t – um,” Jensen stammers, cheeks flushing as he bites down on his bottom lip. Alan chuckles and Jensen’s head jerks up in surprise.
“Hey, I was young once,” Alan says. “I know what it feels like when you fall ass over elbows for a pretty girl.”
Jensen resists the urge to let out a bitter laugh as a familiar stab of pain hits his belly. Of course. A pretty girl. If only they knew.
Jensen just looks up at his father and tries not to cry.
“I’m glad you’re fitting in here, Jensen,” he says again, leaning forward. “But let’s get one thing straight. This new attitude of yours isn’t going to fly anymore. There are rules we expect you to follow. You’re no longer going to just waltz in and out of this house whenever you please. You will tell us when you are going somewhere and when you’ll be home, and you will not continue to sass your mother and me like you’ve been doing. You will show us respect. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” Jensen says. He swallows hard and furrows his brow. “Understood.”
“And another thing.” Jensen suppresses a sigh. “You treat this girl of yours with respect. Don’t go letting your hormones get you into any untoward situations, you get me? You know what’s proper and what isn’t.”
“Yes sir,” Jensen says again. He wishes the floor would open and swallow him whole. “May I be excused?”
“Yes,” Alan replies, waving him off with his newspaper. “Get out of here. Go to your girl’s house. Just remember – things are going to change around here or you won’t be going anywhere.”
Jensen nods and gets up. Angry tears sting his eyes. He heads out the front door and resists the urge to slam it, hands shaking as he walks briskly up the street.
He’d wanted so badly to tell his father the truth, to get in his face and tell them that he has a boyfriend and that’s why he’s been so happy lately. But of course, he’s a coward so he just sat there and let his father make his assumptions while guilt coiled in his belly because he knows Jared deserves better than that.
He steps up onto Jared’s porch and knocks on the door. Breathing gets a little easier when he hears the dogs bark.
“DESIGNATION?” He hears Jared yell. He knits his brow.
“Uh, Jensen?” He ventures. The dogs start barking even louder.
“ACCESS GRANTED!” Jensen rolls his eyes as he opens the door. The dogs jump him and he gives them their mandatory ear scratches. “Ooh, you’re just in time!”
“My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy.” Jensen smirks at the now-familiar line coming from the television. Jared and Sherri are on the couch watching Burn Notice, which is the show Jensen fell asleep to on that first day and has since learned is Jared’s favorite.
“Hey, Bean!” Sherri calls. Jensen gives her a little wave and blushes at the nickname. He’s never had a nickname before. Now he seems to have several.
Jensen is glad Sherri is here. He was feeling rebellious and reckless and if she hadn’t been around Jensen might have tried to push Jared into his bedroom to do something he would have regretted.
“Hey,” Jensen says quietly, scrubbing his hand over his face as he comes to stand in front of the couch. Jared looks up at him and his expression goes from playful to concerned in no time flat.
“What’s wrong, freckle-nose?” Jared reaches up to grab Jensen’s hand and pull him down onto the couch. He falls forward onto his knees on the cushion between Jared and Sherri and shifts around until he’s on his butt, smushed up against Jared’s side. Jared wraps his arms around Jensen’s shoulders and Sherri pats his ankle where his feet are tucked underneath him. He’s past the point of caring about Sherri being around when Jared touches him. As long as they keep it G rated, he no longer gets nervous.
“My dad had a talk with me about my attitude problem,” Jensen says, doing finger quotes around the phrase. “I need to work on it.”
“Well, you are kind of an asshole,” Jared says easily, fingertips stroking Jensen’s collarbone through his shirt.
“Not to mention hideously unattractive,” Sherri says blandly, and then reaches out to tickle the bottom of Jensen’s foot. Jensen bites down on the urge to laugh and pokes Jared in the stomach. Jared catches his hand and laces their fingers together.
“Is everything okay?” He mumbles against the top of Jensen’s head. He huffs out a sigh and nods, resting his head on Jared’s shoulder.
“Yeah. It just sucks that they waited until now to actually give a crap about what I do,” Jensen whines. He presses his mouth against Jared’s shoulder and feels his cheeks heat up. “They think I have a girlfriend.”
“You pig!” Jared says loudly and pushes at Jensen’s shoulder. “Is she prettier than me?”
“No one is prettier than you,” Jensen says automatically, half joking and half dead-serious.
“You know that’s right,” Jared snuggles back against the cushions and holds Jensen tighter. “It’s okay, Jen. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Jensen nods and closes his eyes when Jared presses a reassuring kiss to his temple. He rests his head on Jared’s shoulder and watches TV with his boyfriend and his mom. He tries to push his conversation with his father to the back of his mind and wishes he could be as unflappable as Jared.
“No, but seriously,” Jared says a little while later, apropos of absolutely nothing. “How fucking cool would it be to be a freelance spy? Running around saving lives and blowing shit up with your hot little sidekick. Just like, being continually awesome all the time!”
He gives Jensen a squeeze at ‘hot little sidekick’, and Jensen cranes his head back to look at Sherri.
“What’s wrong with him?” He asks. Sherri rolls her eyes exasperatedly and gestures towards the coffee table. There’s a nearly empty two-liter of Pepsi and a half eaten plate of brownies on it, and Jensen nods in understanding. Sugar rush. He leans forward to grab a brownie and Jared’s fingers tickle the exposed strip of skin just above the waistband of his jeans. Jensen shudders and leans back, sighing at the feel of Jared’s strong, warm arm around his shoulders.
Jared talks pretty consistently through the next couple episodes of their impromptu marathon, providing constant commentary. Jensen is amused, lazing against Jared’s chest with one arm slung across his belly.
The sugar crash is almost instantaneous. One minute he’s rambling and the next he’s slumped over, eyelids drooping sleepily before finally closing all the way.
“Aaaand there he goes,” Sherri says fondly. “Out for the count. I literally do not know how I never threw him against the wall as a child.”
“He was pretty loud and rambunctious, huh?” Jensen asks. To his surprise Sherri smiles sadly.
“Yeah. He was really quiet for awhile after his dad died,” she says, thumbing at a ring on her finger. It looks like a wedding ring and Jensen frowns. “It was rough, but he eventually bounced back. Now I don’t mind the sugar rushes too bad.”
“Can I ask what happened?” Jensen asks timidly as he sits up and lifts Jared’s arm from his shoulders. “He doesn’t like to talk about it. Then again, you probably don’t either. I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s okay,” Sherri replies, tucking her hair behind her ear. “It was a car accident. Jared was five. Gerry was, uh. He left work early to pick Jared up from school and take him to a baseball game and got in an accident on the way. He and Tig loved baseball.”
“Tig?” Jensen asks. Sherri chuckles a little.
“I used to call him Tigger when he was little. Still do sometimes,” Sherri replies, looking over at him. Her eyes are wet and Jensen feels bad for bringing it up at all. “Because he was always bouncing around, you know? Oh god, don’t tell him I told you that.”
“I won’t,” Jensen chuckles. He struggles to move past the painful topic. “I never had a nickname as a kid.”
“That’s just weird,” Sherri says, looking over at him. “It couldn’t last forever, Bean.”
“I’d still like to know how you came up with that,” Jensen chuckles. She shrugs and smiles a little.
“Jensen, Jen, Jenny, Jellybean, Bean,” she says sheepishly, and Jensen laughs. “It’s a weird thought process.”
“Well, I like it,” Jensen admits. “And I bet Jared loves it when you call him Tig.”
“Maybe,” she replies. She looks over at Jared with such a fond smile that it makes Jensen’s heart ache for what he never had. “Come on, Bean. It’s late. I’ll drive you home.”
“Huh?” Jensen says, shaking his head to clear his dismal thoughts. “Oh, no. It’s okay, Sherri. It’s not far. I can walk.”
“I know you can. Doesn’t mean you should.” She pats his thigh as she gets up and stretches. Jensen nods and gets up as well. Sherri leans over Jared’s sleeping form and reaches out to shake his knee. “Time for bed, Tig.”
Sherri winks at Jensen and he bites down on a laugh. Jared squirms and pulls his feet up on the couch, spreading out across it.
“Tig! Go to bed!” Jared lets out a low groan and snuggles against the back of the couch with his eyes closed tight.
“Five minutes, Mommy. Comfy,” he mumbles, and Jensen can’t help the chuckle that spills out of his lips. Jared is adorable.
“Good night, Jared,” he says amusedly. Jared suddenly freezes. One eye opens to land on Jensen.
“Oh. Jensen,” he says as his cheeks flush pink. “I was… unaware that you were still here.”
“Don’t worry about it, Tig,” Jensen teases, and Jared sighs. “Your mom is taking me home. You go to bed.”
Jensen walks over to the couch and leans over Jared to press a soft kiss to his forehead. Jared smiles and touches Jensen’s wrist. His fingertips catch on Jensen’s jelly bracelet.
“Night,” Jared mumbles. Jensen smiles and straightens up, blushing slightly when Sherri slips her arm through his to walk towards the door, car keys twirling around her finger as she whistles.
It’s cold outside and all Jensen wants to do is go back through the front door and cuddle with Jared on his lumpy sofa.
He wants to be a part of this family.
The mood around campus when school starts up again is decidedly cheerful. Sure, everyone had a fantastic spring break (but no one beats Jared out in that category; his was the best) and it’s a little hard to get back into the swing of things, but now they’re in the home stretch. Two more months until freedom – until glorious summer.
But of course, Jared is graduating this year. He hasn’t quite processed that yet.
On Tuesday Jared, Chad, and Misha use their lunch break to run to the grocery store to pick up the necessary supplies for the afternoon’s GSA meeting while Jensen eats with the girls. They grab a basket and load it up, spending the majority of their time in one particular aisle.
Jared goes up to the register and sets the basket on the conveyor belt. An elderly woman behind them spots it and her eyes widen. Chad giggles madly and even Misha cracks up. Jared swats them both on the back of the head.
“Grow up. It’s not like we haven’t done this before,” Jared says as he shares a look with Misha. “It’s not funny.” The cashier glances at their basket and does a literal double take. Jared bites his lip. “Fine. It’s a little funny.”
“It looks like we’re having a party,” Misha says. He glances over at the candy rack and throws a few bags of M&M’s on top of their questionable purchases.
“The world’s greatest party,” Chad adds, tossing on some peanut butter cups. Jared rolls his eyes and smiles politely at the cashier. She’s an older woman and Jared sort of knows her by association, due to the fact that his mom manages the place.
“Uh, hi Jared,” she says with a tight smile as she starts to ring them up. “Will this – um, be all for you?”
“Yeah.” Jared scratches the back of his neck nervously. It’s a move he picked up from Jensen. “It’s for a school project.”
She drops the item she’s currently scanning and Chad and Misha crack up, falling against each other behind Jared. He sighs, looks up towards the ceiling, and slowly dies of awkwardness.
Once he pays for his purchases he grabs the bag and flees with Chad and Misha on his heels. Sherri is walking in the front door as they’re walking out. She has her purse slung over one shoulder and her sunglasses perched on top of her head.
“Oh hey, guys!” She calls, and Jared breathes out harshly through his nose. “What are you doing?”
“Hey Mom!” Chad greets her. Misha scrunches his nose as she ruffles his hair.
She looks down at the bags in Jared’s hand. The brightly colored packages press against the translucent plastic.
“They’re for GSA!” Jared blurts, and she raises an eyebrow.
“Just… go,” she says, smirking and shaking her head. Jared nods and flees out into the sunshine.
After the last period bell rings, Jared starts making his way towards the Tech building. His phone buzzes in his pocket and he extracts it to read a text from Jensen, letting him know he’ll be in the library and to come get him when he’s done. Jared smiles.
He’s never asked Jensen to come to a GSA meeting. Not since that first disastrous time. Jensen knows when and where they take place and when he’s ready, he’ll come. Jared knows that, and he’s very patient.
By a few minutes after three everyone is pretty much assembled. Jared hops off the desk he was sitting on and takes a deep breath before calling the meeting to order.
He walks around an empty table they set up to stand behind it, leaning forward and placing his palms flat on it. Chad, Misha, Sandy, and Sophia all stand behind him.
“Okay, guys,” Jared begins. “What we’re going to talk about today is sort of a touchy subject. It might make some of you a little squirmy, and some of you a little giggly. Just remember – we’re all adults here. Well, almost. We’re gonna talk – “
“Let’s talk about sex!” Chad shouts, and dumps their grocery store bags out onto the empty table. Boxes of condoms, bottles of lube, dental dams, and pretty much everything else you can find on Aisle 8 – Family Planning all come tumbling out. All that, and bananas.
There’s a rumble of murmurs through the crowd, a few laughs, and the distinctive sound of Mr. Barnes, their advisor, audibly facepalming in the corner. He’s awesome, as far as advisors go. He doesn’t really get involved, but he’s always a little antsy on Sex Ed day. Probably because of Chad.
Okay, mostly because of Chad.
“Thank you, Chad,” Jared says scathingly. He pushes Chad away from the table and waits for everyone to quiet down. “More specifically, we’re going to talk about safe sex. Now, I know everyone has sat through this already in Health, but not everyone feels comfortable talking about that with their teachers and people they don’t know.”
“So, that’s why we’re going over it again,” Misha adds, and Jared nods. “We’re all friends here.”
“That’s right,” Jared continues. “And don’t think of this like a lecture. This is more like an open forum. Feel free to add any thoughts or questions to what we present. You know that no one’s going to judge you here. Alright, I think we’re ready to start, as soon as Chad stops giggling.” Sophia smacks the back of his head, and Chad’s smile drops. “Thanks, Sophie.”
“Anytime,” she says, and Chad scowls at her.
They start going through the basics – just a recap of everything they already teach in Health. After awhile, it’s time for Jared’s least favorite part – the condom demonstration. He turns towards the table to grab a banana and a little foil package. There’s some scuffling near the door but Jared doesn’t bother looking. People pop in and out all the time and this topic just isn’t one everyone is comfortable hearing.
“Probably the most important rule about safe sex is to always wear a condom,” Jared says, emphasizing each word by jabbing the banana in the air. “It’s vital with vaginal and anal sex. Basically, if it’s going in you or you’re putting it in someone? It’s gotta have one of these on it.”
Jared rips the condom open and pulls it out of the package. His nose wrinkles at the slimy feel of it. Of course he would grab one of the lubed ones. He holds up the banana and rolls the condom on carefully.
“There’s plenty of different types of condoms. We have tons up here for you to take,” Jared says as his fingers smooth the condom over the fruit and he gets all sticky with lube. “You and your partner can experiment and figure out which is best for you.”
“Now that sounds like a homework project I can get behind,” Chad calls out, and then snorts. “See what I did there? Oh man. Double entendres are awesome.”
Misha laughs and high-fives Chad. Jared rolls his eyes and wipes his fingers on the seat of his pants. There’s a sound coming from the door and Sandy jabs Jared in the back.
He looks over to see Jensen staring at him with wide eyes, back pressed against the door. As soon as they make eye contact Jensen shakes his head and pushes the door open, leaving the room and taking off down the hall.
“Are you freaking serious?” Jared calls as his heart drops into his stomach. “He chooses today? He couldn’t wait a week until we’re planning the fucking year-end bake sale?”
He turns to Misha with a panicked expression, and Misha pats his shoulder as he steps forward. He gestures towards the door and nods.
“Go,” he says. Jared nods gratefully. “We’ve got it covered.”
Jared takes off running. His heart hammers in his chest. Jensen just got comfortable with where they are now – cuddling and kissing without it being a big deal. Jared is afraid this has opened a whole new can of worms, that it’s a giant step back for Jensen.
He curses his luck and Jensen’s timing as he runs out of the Tech building to find him.
Jensen drops down into a sitting position on the empty path behind the building, the same place Jared took him to for lunch that first week, and buries his face in his hands. He can feel his cheeks burning and his hands tremble slightly.
He’s been getting better, but now he’s reminded just how out of his element he really is.
“Jensen.” Jared looks both relieved and hesitant as he approaches. He sits down across from Jensen on the concrete, mirroring his cross-legged position. “Wow, so, I’m usually really good at dealing with awkward situations but this one takes the cake. I don’t really know what to say.”
“Sorry,” Jensen blurts. He looks up and feels his cheeks flush anew when he meets Jared’s eyes. “I just – GSA means so much to you and I wanted to see you in action. I just didn’t know you’d be talking about… that stuff. It sort of freaked me out, I guess.”
“Hey, you don’t have to be sorry,” Jared replies. “I understand that you’re going through a massive transition and you’re taking it one step at a time. I know that what we have can be overwhelming and a little scary. You weren’t expecting to hear it and it freaked you out a little. It’s no big deal.”
“I guess,” Jensen says. He shrugs, still feeling a little embarrassed. Jared runs his fingers through his hair and bites his lip.
“I know I sounded really blasé about it,” Jared says. Jensen nods. The easy, almost detached way Jared talked about sex had unnerved him a little. “But I’ve given that talk a bunch of times. I can be really blatant when it comes to sex, but I’m blatant about pretty much everything.”
“I know.” Jensen picks at his bracelet. He opens his mouth but snaps it shut again, teeth worrying at his bottom lip.
“You – you can talk to me about it, if you want,” Jared offers. Jensen looks up at him, startled. “I mean, if you’re curious. It’s not like I have a lot of experience, but you know I’ll always be honest with you.”
Jensen stares at his bracelet and picks at his fingernails. Truth is, he is curious. He has been for a while now. Now that he’s over the initial shock, Jared’s touch affects him in other ways. Simple things like the way Jared’s fingers trail along his collarbone or the feeling of Jared’s lips on his neck have been making him flush with desire. Jared has been keeping him up at night.
He’s not ready to fulfill this need Jared gives him yet, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to talk about it.
“So,” Jensen starts, swallowing hard and staring at his fingernails. “Have you ever, well – you know.”
“Once,” Jared says calmly, and Jensen nods. The information doesn’t surprise him, but it doesn’t make him happy either. He’s never really thought about Jared’s relationships before they met. Even though he knew it to be true, it still makes him sort of sad to hear that he wasn’t Jared’s first everything like Jared was his.
“So you had a boyfriend, then,” Jensen says delicately as his fingers pinch and pull at his bracelet. He can never seem to stop touching it.
“No,” Jared replies. “I mean, I’ve dated but you’re the first person I’ve considered a boyfriend.”
“Then who…” Jensen trails off, brow furrowing slightly.
“It was a friend.” Jared sighs and runs his fingers through his hair again. “It was, um – it was actually Misha.”
“Wait. You – and Misha?” Jensen asks. The news sort of shocks him. He’s never gotten the feeling that Jared and Misha had ever been more than good friends. “I didn’t know you guys were – like that.”
“We weren’t,” Jared tells him. He looks around and then scoots a little closer, so close their knees are brushing, and then he leans in slightly. “We were fifteen and we thought it would be a good idea to get it over with, you know? Avoid the hype. We never had any feelings for each other or anything. He’s one of my best friends, and we trusted each other. That seemed like enough at the time. But no, we were never together or anything like that.”
Jensen bites his lip and looks up at Jared’s earnest face. He can’t imagine the amount of trust it would take to let someone get that close to you, to let them inside you. Jensen knows the basics, like what goes where and everything. But that’s about it. He has no idea what it all entails. But that’s a conversation for another day. He doesn’t think he could get the words out right now. But there is something he needs to know.
“Do you regret it?” Jensen asks, and he manages to look Jared in the eye as he does. Jared bites his bottom lip and looks up at Jensen from under his bangs.
“It’s complicated,” Jared begins. “I know now that it wasn’t the greatest idea in the world, but I never regretted it. Not until recently. I mean, it was fun. I got off. But it wasn’t anything special. It didn’t really mean anything, and it could have meant so much, had I waited.”
“Waited for what?” Jensen asks softly. Jared smiles and wraps his fingers around Jensen’s wrist, tucking his thumb under his bracelet.
“You,” Jared says simply, and Jensen blinks. The backs of his eyes sting and he blinks rapidly as he leans in a little closer. He doesn’t understand how anyone can be so perfect.
“Jared, I – “ He trails off, not knowing what to say. He looks down and Jared taps the bottom of his chin, making him look back up into Jared’s multi-colored eyes.
“Jen, listen to me,” he says, and Jensen does. He’s always hanging on Jared’s every word. “Just because we’re talking about this does not mean we have to act on anything, okay? I’m loving where we’re at. I am ridiculously happy just to sit in the same room with you. So, promise me you won’t do anything until you’re absolutely sure you’re ready, okay?”
“I promise,” Jensen tells him. He swallows hard and touches Jared’s elbow, cupping it in his free hand. “But you have to promise me something, too.”
“What is it?” Jared’s eyes are serious, ready to promise Jensen the moon if he dare ask.
“Promise me that when I tell you that I’m ready,” Jensen starts, holding Jared’s gaze, “you’ll believe me.”
“Promise,” Jared says softly. He leans in to press a kiss to Jensen’s forehead. Jensen does the same to him, sealing their vow.
Onto Part 6.