Jared is a little nervous when he walks into first period on Monday morning.
He isn’t sure what Jensen’s reaction to their weekend together will be now that it’s over and they’re back to the daily grind. Jensen is floundering and it’s difficult to predict what he’ll do next.
Jared takes his usual seat in the back and slings his bag over the empty desk next to him. Jensen trudges in moments later and even from across the room Jared can see how tired he looks. After all the sleep he got the day before, that doesn’t bode well.
Jensen drops down into his desk when Jared pulls his bag off of it and he sighs, resting his chin in his hand and looking over at Jared. He offers up a tiny smile, green eyes apprehensive as he looks Jared over.
“Hey,” Jared says, smiling at him and giving him a dorky little wave. Jensen gives him a flicker of another smile and then the bell rings. Mrs. Chandler starts writing something on the board and Jensen’s hand drifts towards the corner of his desk. It’s a Pavlovian response Jared is pretty sure he isn’t even aware of.
Jared’s stomach flutters as he leans over to reach into the front pocket of his bag, fingers closing around the candy hidden there. He takes a deep breath before sitting up again and setting the candy on the corner of Jensen’s desk, same as every morning.
Jensen’s fingers close around it instinctively, eyes on the whiteboard as he brings his hands together to unwrap it. Jared swallows and fears his gesture will go unnoticed. But then Jensen looks down and furrows his brow when he notices the plain silver wrapper.
Every single morning since they started sharing this class over a month ago Jared has given Jensen a Hershey’s Hug. It was a gesture of friendship, a happy routine for Jensen to settle into.
But now, for the first time, it’s a Hershey’s Kiss that rests in Jensen’s open palm.
Jensen looks down at the candy and then over at Jared, eyes widening and cheeks flushing pink. Jared just smiles hopefully and gives a slight nod, gesturing for Jensen to go ahead and eat it.
Jensen bites down on his lip and stares at the Kiss in his hand as his eyes glisten slightly. Jared knows Jensen understands what he’s trying to say. Since the very beginning Jared has offered to be Jensen’s friend. But now – now he’s offering to be more. He’s offering to be whatever Jensen wants, and all he has to do is reach out and take it.
Halfway through class, Jensen slowly unwraps the chocolate and puts it in his mouth. He spends the rest of the period idly flattening the piece of foil with his fingernail, brows furrowed thoughtfully. When the bell rings Jensen looks over at Jared for a moment before slipping the foil in his pocket and heading out the door.
Jared doesn’t know what to make of it.
He has trouble paying attention in his next couple classes. He manages to catch a basketball to the face in Gym due to his spacing out, and then eats nearly his entire bag of Kisses in Government. He subsequently has a stomachache all the way through Spanish, and then it’s time for lunch.
He tries to remain optimistic as he walks towards Jensen’s Trig class. It’s on the way to the cafeteria and they’ve been meeting there since they started having lunch regularly. Class seems to have been let out late, because students start bursting out the door just as Jared is walking up. Danneel is leading the way and she flips her hair over her shoulder and tosses Jared a silly wink when she sees him. Jared breaks out of his funk long enough to blow her a kiss, their same old routine. He’s known her since first grade, and she was just as awesome and crazy then as she is now.
Jensen is one of the last few stragglers to leave the classroom. He has his head bowed and his hands stuffed in his pockets.
“Hey,” Jared says as he walks up to him. “Ready for lunch?”
“Uh,” Jensen says, clearing his throat and looking slightly to the left. “I’m not really hungry? I was going to, um, go to the library and work on a project.”
Jared smiles wanly. This he was expecting. He gestures a little further up the hall, coaxing Jensen out of earshot of students milling around the classroom door. Jared leans in slightly, close enough that only Jensen can hear him but far enough away that they don’t look like anything more than two friends talking.
“Jen.” Jared meets Jensen’s nervous gaze before continuing. “What happened over the weekend was a big deal, okay? I completely understand if you need some time alone to process or whatever. Just tell me that. You know you can always be honest with me, right? I’m not going to get mad if you tell me what you’re thinking, no matter what the thought might be.”
Jensen stares at him for a long time, mouth slightly agape and eyes wide open.
“How do you always do that?” He finally asks, and Jared blinks. “How do you always know exactly what I’m thinking?”
“Because,” Jared says with a casual shrug. “You’re not the first one to think it. You’re not alone in this.” When Jensen just looks at him apprehensively, Jared gives him a reassuring smile and continues. “Jen, it’s fine. Go to the library if you want. I have a stomachache, so I’m not hungry, and it’s sort of warm outside so I’m probably just going to go outside and find a sunny spot to bask in.”
“Why does your stomach hurt?” Jensen asks. His concern for Jared seems to outweigh his apprehensiveness and Jared smiles as he pats his belly.
“I may have eaten like, half a pound of candy,” Jared says sheepishly, and Jensen smirks. “That’s not important. Are you going to the library?”
“Well, I’m not now,” Jensen says with a roll of his eyes. “If I stupidly try to avoid you because I’m scared when you know I’m stupidly trying to avoid you, I’d feel like an asshole; on top of it being completely pointless.”
The response is so unexpected and honest that Jared cracks up and has to lean against the lockers for support. Jensen blushes and smiles sheepishly, shrugging his shoulders.
“Now, I believe you mentioned basking in the sun?” Jensen catches Jared’s eye and Jared smirks fondly. “I think I can handle basking.”
Jared grins and flicks his hair out of his face before leading Jensen toward the back of campus. He happens to know that the baseball field is being used for practice, but the girl’s softball field at the back of campus is totally empty.
Jared wordlessly heads out to the middle of the outfield where the sun is warmest and brightest and flops down onto his back. He makes a big show of his basking by spreading out all his limbs and tipping his face up towards the sun.
Jensen snorts and sits down next to him, resting his elbows on his bent knees. They’re all alone out here and Jared reaches up to grab the back of Jensen’s shirt and pull. Jensen flops down next to him and looks over at Jared, squinting against the sun. Jared smiles, closes his eyes, and relaxes into the short cut grass.
Minutes later he feels Jensen’s hand slide over the top of his. He squeezes for a moment before he curls his pinkie finger around Jared’s.
It makes him feel warmer than the sun.
The week gets better after that.
Jensen feels a lot better after his little mental breakdown. Everything was bottled up to the point of festering and now that he’s let it all out he feels like he can breathe again.
He had formulated a plan; he was going to take some time to himself now that could think a little more clearly and really examine the myriad of emotions rushing through him at breakneck speed. He decided to avoid Jared for a little while because he was afraid seeing him would make him forget all about his plan.
That’s pretty much exactly what happened. But rather than winding him up again, Jared is a relaxing presence at his side. Laying silent next to Jared in the grass gave him time to really try and get his thoughts in order.
So for now, Jensen is trying something new. He is going to try doing things that make him happy. It’s a crazy concept, but he’s going to give it a shot. (He’s also trying out sarcasm. So far it’s a good fit.)
Every morning Jared gives him a Hershey’s Kiss and every morning Jensen eats it without a word. He flattens the wrappers into perfect foil squares with his nail and puts them in his binder. Those tiny pieces of foil mean something big. And sure, it scares the shit out of him. But more importantly, it makes him smile.
He’s thinking about it, but he isn’t quite ready. Not yet.
On Wednesday Jared has some sort of student council related emergency to take care of during lunch. Instead of hiding in the library, Jensen takes a deep breath and drops down at the table with Chad, Sandy, Sophia, and Misha sans Jared at his side.
Turns out he doesn’t actually need Jared to sit there. They all like Jensen well enough on his own and Jensen breathes a little easier.
He even throws a tater tot at Chad.
On Thursday Jared offers to help paint backdrops for the spring musical, and Jensen decides to volunteer his assistance as well. Sandy paints a rainbow on Jared’s forehead and a red heart on Jensen’s cheek, and when Chad trips over a paint roller (strategically placed there by Misha) and falls off of the stage Jensen laughs harder than he ever has in his entire life.
He’s trying something new at home too – ignoring his parents whenever they speak.
They make their digs, their little comments and snide remarks and Jensen does his best to let them roll off like water on a duck’s back. He’s tried this numerous times in the past and has always failed. This time he’s pretty sure the difference is that he actually has something good going for him. He has a life – new friends, a new school, and well – he has Jared.
It’s easier to ignore his mother’s comments when he has something to look forward to.
It’s Friday and Jensen has five little squares in his binder. It’s the last period of the day and Jensen is actually looking forward to the bell ringing. He’s supposed to be going to the movies with Jared and the rest of the group. He’s never really had an official outing like that. He could be upset about that, eighteen years old and no experience just hanging out, but he’s not. Going to the movies with Jared and his friends seems like a good place to start.
Ten minutes into his Computer Studies class their teacher seems to give up for the day. He declares it a free period and retreats to his desk. Jensen hears someone mentioning heading over to the Photo lab and he perks up.
Jared has Photo last period.
Jensen deliberates for a moment, rolling his lips into his mouth and scrunching up his nose. He finally decides that hey, he’s supposed to be doing things that he wants to do, and right now he wants to see Jared. He gets a pass to Photo with the few other students and heads out the door with a yellow hall pass in hand.
Photo is the class to take, according to Jared and half of the student body. Mr. Wagner is apparently the coolest teacher ever put on this earth. He doesn’t really care what anyone does, or who mills in and out of the classroom as long as he isn’t teaching a lesson.
Sure enough, when Jensen and the other two students walk into the giant lab everyone is just sitting around talking. Mr. Wagner is nowhere to be found. Jensen is sad he never got to take Photo.
He finally spots Jared across the room. He’s sitting on a stool and talking animatedly to a tiny blonde girl with pretty blue eyes. Jensen shyly approaches, clearing his throat and tapping Jared on the shoulder. Jared spins around and his already present grin grows wider at the sight of him.
“Hey!” He bounces a little on his stool. “What are you doing here?”
“Rosoff called a free period,” Jensen explains.
“Have you met Kristen?” Jared asks. He gestures to the small girl on the stool next to his. Jensen nods at her and slips his hands into the back pockets of his jeans.
“Hey Jensen!” She chirps brightly. Jensen somehow isn’t surprised that she already knows his name. Jensen pulls up another stool and climbs up on it as he pulls his bottom lip into his mouth.
“So did you guys finally decide on a theme for prom or what?” Jared asks Kristen. “Is it still like, tropical or whatever?”
“Ugh, I swear this committee is made up of the planet’s biggest bitches,” Kristen responds as she tucks her hair behind her ear. “Luau is out. It’s apparently lame.”
Jared suddenly gets this gleeful look on his face and his eyes go wide as he grins mischievously.
“But what am I supposed to do with my tiki warrior outfit?!” Jared yells. Kristen slaps her hands to her face as she laughs and peeks out at Jared from between her fingers.
“High School Musical, Jared, really?” She asks with a shake of her head. “You are like, the gayest of the gay. You are truly the Head Homo. I bow at your bejeweled feet.”
Jensen stiffens at that, muscles going tense. It’s still sort of a shock to the system to hear Jared’s sexuality talked about so openly with no trace of revulsion. He should be used to it by now. Four out of the five people he hangs out with are gay. It’s been explained to him that while Chad is technically more flamboyant than Misha, or even Jared for that matter, he is still somehow straight. This fact apparently baffles everyone.
“You instantly knew what it was from,” Jared says, distracting Jensen from his thoughts. “So you’re just as lame.”
“It’s okay for me to like High School Musical,” Kristen responds, lifting her chin. “I have a vagina.”
“That’s your excuse for everything!” Jared yells.
“It’s never okay to like High School Musical,” another guy says as he walks by, not even bothering to stop.
“Oh yeah, Dohring? Well it’s not okay for me to like your mom so much either!” Kristen yells after him. “But I just can’t help myself!”
“Nice!” Jared shouts, and they give each other a high five. Jensen just raises an eyebrow. Mackenzie owns the High School Musical DVDs, and well, to hear that Jared watches them isn’t much of a shock. “So, has Jason let you into his pants yet, or what?”
“No,” Kristen pouts. “Oh, but I will find the golden key to that fucking chastity belt of his, just you wait.”
“He’s probably still not over that time you kicked his ass and made him eat sand in fourth grade,” Jared tells her. He suddenly sits up straighter, looking over Kristen’s head and across the room. “Ooh, darkroom’s free. DIBS!”
Jared hops off of the stool and gathers a tray full of items from the counter. Kristen waves at them and takes off after Jason. She jumps up on his back and she’s such a tiny thing that he doesn’t even sag under her weight.
“Wanna help me develop some pictures?” Jared asks, lightly kicking the bottom of Jensen’s stool. He nods and hops down to follow Jared towards the back of the lab. The darkroom is tucked back in an inset alcove and cut off from the rest of the classroom. Jared opens the door and ushers Jensen inside before following him in and shutting the door.
The room is tiny; barely bigger than a walk-in closet. Jensen had no idea how small the space would be, and by the time he turns around he’s face to face with Jared. It’s cramped, warm, and intimate – and then Jared turns off the light.
Jensen lets out a little gasp as the room goes pitch black. Jared seeks out his wrist in the dark and curls his fingers around it as he flips another switch. Soft red light fills the room and it makes Jared’s skin glow a gorgeous shade of amber.
“You ever done this before?” Jared asks. His voice is quiet like he’s trying to match the size of the room. Jensen swallows hard and pulls his wrist out of Jared’s grasp. His heart is thumping in his chest and his throat goes dry.
“Huh?” He squeaks out, walking backwards until his back bumps into a counter and there are a few feet between them. Jensen blinks as his eyes adjust to the dim red light.
“Used a darkroom,” Jared clarifies. Jensen lets out a breath and shakes his head.
“No,” he adds quietly, just in case Jared can’t see him clearly.
“It’s fun,” Jared tells him, stepping over to the counter and laying out his supplies. “I think it’s relaxing. Come here and watch.”
Jensen sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, his trademark nervous gesture, and steps over to Jared’s side. He watches as Jared fills a few trays with different liquids and his eyes flicker between Jared’s face and his giant hands.
He looks serene but focused as he begins. He explains bits and pieces of the process to Jensen, but his words sort of go in one ear and out the other. It’s hard to pay attention when he’s so close to Jared like this.
“I just found this film last week when I was cleaning my room,” Jared tells him. “I don’t even remember what project the pictures were supposed to be for, but I thought maybe they could go in my end of the year portfolio if they came out alright. We’ll see.”
Jared dips a sheet of photo paper in a tray of developer and motions Jensen closer. “Look,” he says, and Jensen watches as a black and white image of Sandy develops. She’s wearing a pair of glasses Jensen has never seen before and blowing a kiss at the camera.
“It’s good,” Jensen says softly, and Jared smiles at him. The crisp tang of the chemicals stings Jensen’s nose but he’s still close enough to smell Jared’s cologne. It’s subtle and spicy and Jensen breathes in deep. Jensen’s pulse is skyrocketing and he focuses on breathing in and out and trying to keep calm in such close proximity to Jared.
“We had this GSA sleepover type thing at Sandy’s house awhile back, probably just a few weeks before you moved here,” Jared tells him in a quiet, melodic voice. He rinses the photo of Sandy and clips it on the line off to the side to dry before moving onto the next one. Jensen watches as a group photo develops. There’s about twenty or more people crammed into a spacious living room. Sandy, Sophia, Chad, and Misha are all squashed onto the couch with Jared lying across their laps. “Sandy lives with her super cool grandma in this huge house, so we usually have group things there.”
It goes on like that for a while. Jared develops a new picture and explains who is in it and what’s going on, and Jensen pretends that being locked in this tiny, dark room with Jared isn’t equal parts terrifying and exciting.
Jared chuckles when he gets to a close-up picture of Chad looking sideways at a dog nuzzling Chad’s cheek with its wet nose.
“So you know how my dogs are total shits, right? Well, they’re freaking saints when it comes to Sandy’s dog. He’s a German Shepherd and his name is Cal – short for Calamity. Seriously,” Jared tells him, and Jensen chuckles. “So anyway, this dog is running amuck all night – knocking shit over, humping people. The works. And at one point during the night a bunch of us were in the backyard – and don’t even ask me why because I have no clue – and Cal comes tearing outside and runs straight for Chad. That’s like, ninety pounds of pure muscle just slamming into that scrawny douchebag like a linebacker. He let out this girly scream and flew off of his feet and right into the pool.”
“Oh man.” Jensen laughs as he pictures the scenario in his head.
“So, he pulls himself out of the pool and he looks like a drowned rat,” Jared continues as he develops another picture of a soaking wet Chad flipping off the camera. “And it’s like forty degrees outside and he’s shaking so bad he’s damn near vibrating. Sandy’s grandma heard the commotion and came downstairs and started like, fretting over Chad. She made him get in the shower and dude, I’m pretty sure she was in there with him. Not like, in the shower, but the bathroom. Anyway, she tells him she’s gonna bring him something to wear, and – oh god.”
Jared slaps his hand down on the table and shakes his head as he starts a new picture. Jensen gets the feeling he knows what it’s going to consist of.
“She takes his wet clothes and leaves the new ones in there, so he has no choice, right?” Jared continues, leaning over the developing tray. “So we’re all waiting, and he’s in this bathroom forever. We thought he’d died of hypothermia or some shit. But he finally comes out wearing these pink flannel pajamas covered in little candy canes and mugs of hot chocolate, and like – “ He pauses to wipe at his eyes and catch his breath. Jensen starts laughing too. He wasn’t even there, but Jared’s laughter is such an infectious sound. “And like, there were little pink bows all over them and everything. And Chad’s like, totally nonchalant – like if he acted like he didn’t give a shit, we wouldn’t say anything.”
“I’m guessing you said something,” Jensen says, holding his hand over his stomach as he laughs. Jared just laughs harder and pushes the developing tray slightly towards Jensen. The picture is of Chad posing in said pajamas pulling a model face, with one hand on his hip and the other on the back of his head. He added cat’s eye glasses, a shower cap, and fuzzy slippers to the ensemble. Even without color it’s one of the funniest things Jensen has ever seen. He laughs so hard that he has to slap his hand over his mouth, and Jared nearly doubles over as he rinses the picture and hangs it up to dry. He’s sucking in huge gulps of air, struggling to breathe because he’s laughing that hard.
“Oh, we all said something,” Jared wheezes. “But he totally played it up and acted like Sandy’s grandma all night long. He would not break character. It was amazing. But you know what the best part was?”
“What?” Jensen gasps and wipes at his eyes.
“He totally kept those pajamas,” Jared tells him, and Jensen snorts loudly. “And he told me they’re like, the most comfortable thing he owns and he wears them to bed on cold nights.”
“Oh god,” Jensen moans, snickering loudly as Jared tosses his head back with a booming laugh. When they finally calm down, Jared wipes the tears from his eyes and pushes the tray aside, all through with the roll of film.
Jensen is breathing hard and his ribs are sore from laughing. He looks over at Jared and a sudden thought occurs to him. He’s happy, he’s having fun, and Jared made him laugh. His eyes travel to Jared’s mouth and his pulse speeds up again, heart hammering rapidly against his chest.
“Next time you should totally – “
Jensen leans in quickly and kisses Jared, cutting him off mid sentence. Jensen doesn’t close his eyes, choosing instead to keep them wide open and locked on Jared’s blurry face. His lips are pressed in a crooked line across the corner of Jared’s mouth, soft and hesitant.
He’s sure he’s doing it all wrong, but this clumsy kiss is better than anything he’s ever experienced in his entire life.
Jensen finally pulls back a little, mouth going slightly slack as he pants. He swallows hard as Jared turns to face him and steps in closer. Jared’s eyes are wide and full of wonder and the corner of his mouth, the spot Jensen just kissed, twitches up into a smile. Jared puts his hand on Jensen’s cheek, eyes going wet and soft as he leans in.
Jensen meets him halfway, reaching out to grab Jared’s free hand and slotting their fingers together as their lips touch. Jared’s lips are warm and soft when they press firmly against his own. Jensen sags against Jared when his knees go weak and he wraps an arm around Jared’s neck to pull him in even closer.
Jared slides his hand down Jensen’s cheek and the curve of his jaw, fingertips trailing lightly down the side of his neck before he curls his arm around Jensen’s waist and pulls him in tightly. Jensen lets his eyes slip shut as Jared angles his head slightly and kisses Jensen even more firmly.
This should be the scariest moment of Jensen’s entire life, and it was at first, but now he just feels… peaceful. It feels like they should have been doing this all along. His heart is pounding but in a good way and he’s dizzy in a way he’s never felt before. It’s like he was meant to press his lips against Jared’s like this, to kiss him like nothing else will ever matter.
Maybe nothing else ever will.
Jared pulls back a little and whispers Jensen’s name reverently, and Jensen is close enough to feel the soft gust of breath on his lips. He kisses the bridge of Jensen’s nose and then the spot between his eyes as Jensen buries his fingers in the thick tangle of Jared’s hair.
Jared slips his hand under the back of Jensen’s shirt. His palm presses flat against the small of Jensen’s back and it makes him shiver from head to toe. He grins and Jared kisses the stretch of his lips while his other hand shakes free from Jensen’s grasp to rest on his cheek. His thumb swipes across Jensen’s chin before pulling down slightly. Jensen’s lips part on a breathy sigh and Jared places a soft kiss on his bottom lip before kissing them again.
Jensen doesn’t really know what he’s doing so he just follows Jared’s lead. Jared opens his mouth slightly and sweeps his tongue across the seam of Jensen’s lips. Jensen squeezes his eyes shut tighter and his fingers tug slightly at Jared’s hair as he hesitantly opens his mouth for Jared’s questing tongue. The kiss goes a little deeper for just a moment, tongues brushing and teeth nipping before Jared pulls back completely.
Jensen opens his eyes to see Jared’s grin, bright against the dim light of the tiny room. Jensen can hardly breathe. It’s like his entire life is changing before his eyes. It’s like he’s changing.
Jared is cupping his cheek and looking at him like he’s everything he’s ever wanted, like he’s the answer to all of his prayers, and Jensen feels like he’s about to burst.
Jared leans in to press a kiss to the corner of Jensen’s eye and that’s when he realizes he’s nearly crying. Moisture gathers in his eyes and makes his vision blur. Jensen just wraps both arms around Jared in a tight hug and buries his face in the soft curve of Jared’s neck.
Jensen wants to stay in this moment forever. He wants to never leave this tiny darkroom or Jared’s arms, never wants to lose the tingly feeling of just-kissed lips. But he knows that isn’t possible.
What he does know is that after what just happened everything is going to change. Try as he might, he just can’t bring himself to care about that.
He’s looking forward to it.
Jared still has Jensen in his arms, hands rubbing soothing circles along his back, when the bell rings. The sound of it filtering into the tiny room makes them jump slightly and Jared pulls away from Jensen regretfully, hands trailing down Jensen’s arms before letting go.
Jensen looks up at him in the dim, romantic light. His eyes are shining with unshed tears and Jared just wants to – he doesn’t even know – run up to the nearest rooftop and scream like the world’s biggest cliché. This is the greatest moment of his life, the most important, so he shouldn’t ruin it by saying something retarded.
So he just slowly brings his hand up to Jensen’s chin and curls his fingers underneath it as he presses his thumb under Jensen’s bottom lip. They’re pink and puffy, swollen with their first ever kiss and Jared’s heart flutters. Jensen is staring at him. His chest is heaving with each breath and Jared leans in to press another soft, chaste kiss to his mouth.
Jensen makes a soft sound, something low and pleased, and Jared smiles. There’s a sudden pounding at the door and Jared and Jensen spring apart. The door doesn’t open and Jared knows it won’t as long as the safelight is on. That red light bulb on the outside of the door is as effective as a padlock to Photo students.
“Guys!” Kristen yells through the door. “School is oooover. Wags says he’s gonna lock you in if you don’t evacuate the premises immediately!”
“Coming!” Jared yells before chuckling softly. He gathers the mostly dry pictures and rolls them into a canister to keep them safe from the light. He marks his name on it and shoves it into a cubbyhole in the wall before flipping on the light. Gone is the soft amber glow, replaced with harsh fluorescents. They both blink against the sudden change and Jensen fixes his glasses like he just noticed they were knocked askew by their kissing.
He gives Jared a shy but happy smile and it makes Jared feel giddy.
They walk off campus in comfortable silence. Jared is sort of worried over what Jensen’s reaction will be once the initial shock wears off, but he seems to be doing okay for now. Jared hopes it stays that way. Jared doesn’t think he’ll be able to handle it if Jensen decides that their kiss was a mistake.
He knows they’ll have to talk about it eventually but he’s fine with delaying the inevitable for now, so long as Jensen keeps smiling like that.
“You’re still coming tonight, right?” Jared asks. He stuffs his hands in his pockets when he gets the urge to tangle their fingers together. It’s much too soon for thoughts of holding hands in public.
“Hm?” Jensen turns his head to look at Jared. A pretty blush stains his cheeks and he ducks his head with a soft smile. “Oh, the movies. Yes, I’m still going.”
“Good,” Jared replies. He takes a deep breath before continuing. “Well, since it’s one of my rare Fridays off from saving the world, one school committee meeting at a time, I was wondering if maybe you wanted to come over and hang out until we have to meet up with the guys?”
Jensen raises an eyebrow at him and Jared nearly slaps a hand to his face.
“Not for like – any particular reason or anything,” Jared blurts out. Jensen chuckles slightly and gives Jared a fond smile. “Is that a yes?”
“Sure,” Jensen chuckles. “I’ll come over.”
His mom is still at work when they get to Jared’s. Jensen spends a good few minutes rolling around on the floor with Harley and Sadie while Jared heats up a Hot Pocket as a snack. They meet up on the couch with their shoes kicked off and their feet up on the coffee table. Jared turns on the television and he’s pleased to see that there are only a few inches of space between them.
“Great, now you smell like dog,” Jared says, making an exaggerated face. Jensen looks over at him indignantly and kicks his foot.
“Yeah, well,” Jensen replies. “You smell like a Hot Pocket, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t even qualify as real food.”
“It fills my belly,” Jared says as he puffs out his stomach and pats it. “That’s all I need.”
Jensen smiles and then bites his lip. He shifts closer to Jared and leans in like he’s going to spill a secret. Jared’s heart stops as Jensen tentatively rests his chin on Jared’s shoulder, lips close to his jaw.
“Jared, I – “ He begins before clearing his throat and going a little quieter. “I’m really scared.” Jared swallows hard and opens his mouth to speak but Jensen cuts him off. “But – I’m also, well, happy. You – “
He huffs and lets out a little noise of frustration when he can’t get out the words he wants to. He sighs again and rests his head on Jared’s shoulder. His hand rests low on Jared’s stomach and he relaxes against him. Jared lets out a breath and wraps his arm around Jensen to pull him in closer. Jensen makes a content sound and cuddles against his side as his hand rubs back and forth across Jared’s stomach.
They spend the next few hours cuddling on the couch and letting their hands timidly explore the most innocuous parts of each other’s bodies. It’s peaceful and quiet. There’s one dog on both sides of them and their large furry bodies press them even closer together. Jensen is loose-limbed and sleepy, eyes drooping like he doesn’t have a care in the world.
Maybe he doesn’t – not for right now. But this peaceful easy feeling can’t last forever. He knows the shit will eventually hit the fan. There’s no way it can’t. Jared looks down at Jensen, fingertips skittering across his temple before burying themselves in his hair.
Jared presses a soft kiss to the top of Jensen’s head and smiles at the answering feel of Jensen’s hand sweeping across his stomach. Whatever happens, he’ll be by Jensen’s side.
But for now? He’s just going to enjoy what they’ve got.
They meet up with the rest of the group outside the movie theater about half an hour before showtime. Chad and Misha are sitting on a bench and Sandy and Sophia are sitting on their laps, presumably in an effort to stay warm.
Jensen is wearing another one of Jared’s jackets. His hands are buried deep in the pockets and he’s still shivering as Jared bounces along next to him in nothing but a thermal and a tee shirt.
The girls squeal and hop off of the guys’ laps when they spot them. As soon as Jensen steps up on the curb they pounce on him and he tenses only slightly as their grip tightens.
“Jenny! You came!” Sandy shouts. Jensen glares playfully at Jared when he snorts at the nickname. Sandy and Sophia each kiss his cheek and then wipe off the sticky gloss they left behind. Jensen can’t help but to laugh and hug them back.
“Hey, I came too,” Chad says as he and Misha walk over to them. The girls pull back and they all stand in a lopsided circle. “I even came early.”
“Don’t you – “ Sophia is cut off when Chad slaps his hand over her mouth. She raises an amused eyebrow and Chad shakes his head.
“Don’t,” he tells her. “It doesn’t need to be said.”
“Can we get inside before my dick shrivels down to the size of Chad’s sense of self-worth?” Misha asks, and Chad socks him in the shoulder. Misha just throws his head back and yells at the sky. “What the fuck, California? It’s almost spring break. Warm the fuck up!”
They get their tickets without much incident. Jared pays for them both, but Jensen insists on paying for the snacks so they break about even. The movie they chose is near the end of its run so the theater is pretty much empty. Sandy and Sophia join hands and head towards the back row and Jared and Jensen follow close behind. Jensen hears Chad let out an overdramatic sigh as they all sit down – Sandy and Sophia, Jared and Jensen, and then Chad and Misha.
“Looks like it’s you and me, snowflake,” Chad says exasperatedly and reaches out to snag Misha’s hand. Misha looks down at their entwined fingers and then back at Chad, raising an eyebrow in question. “Well, everyone else is coupled up!”
“Your alleged heterosexuality is astounding,” Misha says, but he doesn’t let go of Chad’s hand. Jensen glances from them over to Sandy and Sophia, noticing the way their hands are entwined as well. Jared’s hand is slung casually over their mutual armrest and Jensen wants to hold it, but he’s never touched Jared that way in public before. He doesn’t know if he can, even though all their friends obviously know something is going on.
Jensen sighs and flops back into his seat when the previews start, slurping on his soda and curling his hand into a fist.
The movie is some sort of action flick with very little in the way of actual plot. Jensen finds it boring immediately and it only takes half an hour for Jared to start squirming. Jensen is honestly surprised he lasted that long.
Jared shifts and suddenly something soft and squishy hits Jensen’s cheek. He blinks and looks down to see a gummi bear resting in the folds of his shirt. He looks over at Jared indignantly before picking up the candy and throwing it at his face. Jared catches it in his mouth and Jensen slaps a hand over his own mouth to stifle a laugh.
A few moments later Jared starts nudging his foot, toe tapping insistently at his ankle. Jensen takes a few kernels of popcorn from his bag and tosses them at Jared’s face, and he retaliates by throwing an entire handful at Jensen. Some of the kernels get stuck in the spikes of his hair and he shakes his head, sending them flying. Jared reaches over to pinch his side, tickling him and making him squirm. He wriggles away and grabs at Jared’s arm and a small chuckle slips through his tightly clenched lips.
“Hey, do you have any fucking idea what’s going on in this movie?” Chad stage whispers to Misha. “I can’t hear it over the sound of Jared and Jensen’s gay love.”
Jensen stiffens and his smile fades at Chad’s words. His brief moment of panic doesn’t last long, however. It ends when Jared leans over Jensen to dump his remaining popcorn over Chad’s head and he lets out an indignant squawk so loud it reverberates throughout the theater.
Jensen laughs and Jared gives him a pleased smile. They both slouch down in their chairs and Jensen finds Jared’s hand underneath the armrest. He slots their fingers together and squeezes. He doesn’t even mind the fact that Jared’s hand is all greasy with popcorn butter.
After the movie they all pile into Misha’s SUV to go get some ice cream. All six of them squash into a semi-circle booth with Jared and Jensen jammed in the middle. He and Jared share a banana split and Chad steals their cherry, much to Jared’s dismay.
They’re loud and obnoxious but the waitress just smiles indulgently and even brings Jared a little cup of cherries when he won’t stop badgering Chad for eating theirs.
Jensen can’t stop laughing the entire time. They’re all so funny, and somehow Jensen doesn’t feel like an outsider when he’s with them. He feels like one of the group and it makes him even happier.
After the ice cream Misha just sort of drives them around aimlessly. Chad sits in the passenger seat with Sandy and Sophia in the middle and Jensen and Jared occupying the very back. When Misha starts navigating his way back towards the theater to drop them off at their cars, Jensen shrugs out of Jared’s jacket and hands it over. Jared looks over at him with a smile tugging at his lips as they both rest their heads on the back of the seat.
Jared covers their heads with the sweatshirt, shrouding them in darkness and cutting them off from everyone else in the car. He keeps his arm raised to hold the fabric above their heads. Jensen blinks against the darkness and smiles when Jared’s face comes into view. It reminds him of the darkroom. He’s full and sleepy from the ice cream; drowsy and relaxed from being in the dark car.
“Hi,” Jared says softly as his hand reaches out to rest on Jensen’s knee. “Did you have fun tonight?”
“Yeah,” Jensen says. Before he can even really think about it he’s leaning in to press their mouths together, soft and sweet. Jared lets out a low hum and presses closer, one arm holding their makeshift fort up and his other hand moving from Jensen’s knee to his cheek, thumb stroking back and forth as they kiss.
Jensen instinctively opens his mouth and lets Jared lick his way inside. A lazy spark ignites in his belly as their tongues move together. Jensen curls his hands in Jared’s shirt and holds him in place just in case he tries to move way. The kiss is soft and languid, mouths moving slowly as their eyes droop shut.
Jared vaguely tastes of the sticky sweet cherries he ate so many of and Jensen licks the flavor away until there’s only Jared on his tongue. Jensen can’t get over how good this feels, to kiss and be kissed like this. He’s sleepy and warm and alive, and he feels whole and perfect like this. He never wants it to stop.
Moments later the car jerks to a halt and Jared pulls away, sucking a little on Jensen’s bottom lip before letting it go. The jacket is yanked from their heads and Jensen looks up to see the girls grinning at them from over the seat and making cute little aww noises. Jensen flushes red, a little embarrassed at having been caught. But that’s all – he’s not scared or ashamed. Being with Jared feels far too amazing to let the bad stuff get to him.
“Make out in your own car,” Misha says with a smirk, looking at them through the rearview mirror. Chad nods in agreement.
“But girls?” He says with a lewd grin. “You two feel free.”
“In your wildest dreams, Chad,” Sophia says, and Sandy giggles. Jared and Jensen climb out of Misha’s car and get into Jared’s. It’s old and beat up, and Jensen honestly hadn’t even known he owned it until that afternoon. Jared had told him he preferred walking whenever he could and didn’t use it too often.
It’s freezing inside Jared’s car and Jensen instantly misses the sleepy, protective bubble of Misha’s giant vehicle. Jared starts the engine and they drive home in comfortable silence with Jensen dozing slightly in the passenger seat.
Jared parks a few houses down from Jensen’s and that’s when the nervousness sets in. Today has been so perfect and now it has to end? His heart beats rapidly and he shoots Jared a desperate look.
“It’ll be okay,” Jared says like he can read Jensen’s thoughts. “It’s late and you’re tired. Just go to bed and call me tomorrow if you want. I have some errands to run but my phone will be on me all day, okay?”
Jensen nods shakily, reaching up to grab at the door handle. He looks over at Jared and bites down on his lip as his mood tailspins. Jared leans in but stops short, eyes darting in the direction of Jensen’s house before he pulls back. He grabs Jensen’s hand and squeezes it tightly instead.
“I’m always around the corner,” Jared tells him, looking right into Jensen’s eyes. Jensen nods and his cheeks flush with embarrassment. He was doing so well but here he is, tearing up like a scared little boy yet again. Jared bites his lip and strokes his thumb over Jensen’s knuckles. His brows furrow as he looks down at their joined hands. “Here.”
Jared pulls his hand away and plucks at his rubber bracelets. There’s two black ones and one pink one and Jared rolls one of the black ones off of his hand, rubber stretching as far as it will go. Jensen furrows his brow as Jared holds the bracelet out with two hands and gestures towards Jensen with a smile.
“Jared?” Jensen lifts his hand hesitantly. Jared smiles and rolls the bracelet over Jensen’s fingers, tucking his thumb in and rolling it down onto his wrist. Jared pats the bracelet once it’s in place before grinning widely and linking their hands again, bracelets side by side. Jensen blinks rapidly and looks down at their joined hands. His heart is pounding and he’s so touched. Jared is the sweetest person to ever live and Jensen has no idea what he did to deserve him.
“There,” Jared says. His lips quirk up in a shy smile. “Now I’m always right here.” He plucks at the bracelet on Jensen’s wrist, eyes going soft. “Remember that.”
“Okay,” Jensen says, nodding rapidly. He opens and closes his mouth as he tries to find the words to convey what he’s feeling. It’s damn near impossible. “Today – everything about today was amazing. And I – I really want to kiss you right now, but – “
“Don’t worry about it,” Jared tells him while stroking his fingertips across the thin skin on the inside of Jensen’s wrist. He smiles and Jensen feels himself falling. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Okay, I – thanks, Jared,” Jensen tells him. He squeezes Jared’s hand again before letting go. “Good night.”
“Night, Jen,” Jared says warmly, and Jensen gives him one last smile before exiting the car. He feels weighted down with each step he takes away from Jared. It makes him uneasy, makes him remember that just because everything feels right when he’s with Jared doesn’t mean it is.
Jensen trudges up onto his porch, sending one last glance at Jared’s car before stepping inside the house. He closes the door quietly and tiptoes towards the stairs but of course, his good luck had to run out sometime.
“Jensen Ross!” His mother calls from the living room. He tenses up before slowly spinning on his heels to face her. She’s on the sofa in her bathrobe, and she looks livid. “It’s nearly midnight. Where in God’s name have you been?”
Jensen stares at her, taking in her slightly weathered face and bottle-blonde hair. She has her nose up in the air, constantly judging, and Jensen is done cowering before her. He looks down at his bracelet, the piece of Jared that will never leave him, and for once he bravely lifts his chin to meet her gaze.
“I was out with friends,” Jensen tells her as he rolls his shoulders back defiantly. She looks confused for a moment, like she never even considered the possibility.
“You can’t just not come home from school and not tell us where you’re going!” She shrieks. Jensen resists the urge to roll his eyes.
“You told me when we moved here that you wanted me to go out and meet people, didn’t you?” Jensen asks, crossing his arms over his chest and raising an eyebrow. For the first time in his life he feels like an actual teenager. His mother just gapes at him before finally giving a jerky nod. She opens her mouth to speak but Jensen cuts her off. “Well, that’s what normal kids do, Mom. They stay out until midnight and they don’t call their parents. You can’t have it both ways.”
“What in Heaven’s name has gotten into you?” She asks, and Jensen smirks at the irony of it. He shrugs and yawns exaggeratedly, stretching his arms over his head.
“Absolutely nothing,” he responds as he heads for the stairs. “I’m going to bed. Night!”
He doesn’t even bother to look back to see her reaction before heading up the stairs. Once he shuts himself in his room he throws himself on his bed and grins to himself. He feels liberated and maybe a little in control for once. He stares at the thin, black ring of rubber around his pale wrist and he knows it’s because he has Jared with him now.
Jensen sleeps peacefully that night.
The next week goes by surprisingly fast considering it’s the last week before spring break. Jared figures it has a lot of do with how busy he is. He has one final meeting regarding Day of Silence with GLSEN Jane, and then he meets with the poster committee to come up with something simple yet effective to spread the word.
It seems like every single committee or club he’s somehow involved in wants to have a meeting before spring break. Apparently one week away from the school is going to change life as they know it. Not for the first time, Jared feels spread a little thin as he tries to make it to each and every meeting along with trying to finish all his homework and stopping to talk to every single person that pulls him aside to ask for advice.
One topic in particular seems to be pretty popular, and Jared makes a mental note to tweak the GSA agenda a little bit. He wishes they could make it through a whole quarter without needing to do a safe sex recap, if only so he doesn’t have to hear Chad snicker through the whole thing.
The weather finally starts to agree with them. It finally starts to feel like late spring in California and it’s awesome. Jared is just happy to bust out the cargo shorts and flip-flops again.
The downside to the busy week is that he doesn’t really get any alone time with Jensen. He still sees him every morning in class and gives him his Hershey’s Kiss, and they eat lunch as a group on the one day Jared doesn’t have something to do in that hour, but that’s pretty much it.
Jensen assures him that everything went fine after Jared dropped him off on Friday. He tells Jared that he understands that he’s busy, and that he’s fine, really. And he seems happy enough.
But Jared wants to get him alone. He wants to know if Jensen will kiss him again or if that one night was some sort of amazing fluke. No matter what he’s trying to concentrate on, their kisses are at the back of his mind, burned forever into his memory.
Finally Saturday afternoon rolls around and Jared is free to be a normal teenager for the next eight school-free days. Sandy invited them all over to her house for a mini pool party and Jared is more than a little excited. He parks his car a few houses down from Jensen’s, just in case, and texts him to let him know he’s arrived.
Jensen comes walking up the street a few minutes later in a pair of black board shorts, a thin white tee, and flip flops. He has a blue towel slung over one shoulder and his glasses are off. He looks so relaxed and beautiful that Jared’s breath catches in his throat.
“Hi,” Jensen says once he gets in the car. Jared actually has to try a few times before he can get a response out. Jared’s bracelet is still on Jensen’s wrist, looking like it’s been there forever.
“Where are your glasses?” Jared asks as he pulls away from the curb. Jensen holds up a case and shrugs.
“I can see without them, just not really well,” Jensen tells him. “And I can’t wear them in the pool so I’ve had them off all day to get used to it.”
“Oh,” Jared says, looking over at him again. “I – well, I missed you.”
“Yeah.” Jensen looks over at him and smiles softly. “I missed you too.”
They’re the last to arrive at the house. Sandy, Sophia, Chad, and Misha are already splashing around the pool. They all call out to them when Jared leads Jensen around to the backyard and Jared wastes no time in setting all his things on his shoes on a picnic table, stripping off his shirt, and diving in.
The water is cold at first, knocking the air out of his lungs. He splutters as he resurfaces and his grin fades when he sees Jensen standing on the very edge of the pool and biting his bottom lip nervously. Jared swims up to the edge and reaches out to grasp Jensen’s ankles. He looks up at him as his thumb brushes the sharp knob of bone.
“What’s up?” He asks. After a moment Jensen just shakes his head. He takes a deep breath and steps back, pulling his shirt over his head and dropping it on top of his towel and shoes. He’s slender and pale, lightly-muscled and lithe, and Jared can’t stop staring. Jensen suddenly breaks into a run and jumps over Jared’s head to cannonball into the chilly water.
Everyone cheers and Jared whips around. He chuckles when Jensen smirks at him. Jared lunges for him and Jensen swims across the pool, throwing his head back with a laugh.
They play in the water for hours; until they’re all pruney and their eyes sting with chlorine. Every single time Jared brushes by Jensen in the cool water it somehow feels like molten lava.
If Jensen was beautiful before, there isn’t even a word for what he looks like now. He’s happy and laughing and he’s absolutely gorgeous, green eyes bright and skin turning slightly pink from the sun.
Jared just can’t get over it.
When the sun starts to set Jared hefts himself out of the pool. He has to pull his shorts up slightly when the weight of the water tries to drag them down.
“I’m gonna get something to drink,” he announces. He grabs his towel and does a quick, half-assed job of drying himself off. Jensen swims over to the edge and pulls himself out as well, sinewy muscles bunching under his wet skin.
“I’ll come with,” Jensen says, and Jared nods dumbly. They walk into the kitchen together and Jensen jumps when Cal suddenly barks from the other side of the doggy-gate keeping him trapped in the back of the house.
They each get a soda from the fridge but they’re too cold to drink much of them. Jensen sets his on the counter and crosses his arms over his chest as he shivers. Jared can see the goose bumps covering his skin and water dripping down the sides of his face. Jared looks to the left and into the open door of the laundry room, noticing the stack of towels on the dryer.
“Come here,” Jared says, grabbing Jensen’s wrist and leading him into the laundry room. He doesn’t turn on the light. The bright glow coming from the kitchen seems to be enough. “You’re gonna freeze to death, ice-pop.”
Jensen chuckles. His teeth chatter slightly as Jared grabs a large, fluffy white towel and shakes it out. He drapes it over the top of Jensen’s head and dries his hair, scrubbing vigorously before pulling it away. Jensen is looking up at him with wide, trusting eyes, lips slack as Jared dries him off. Jared moves the towel across Jensen’s neck and chest, sliding it down his arms before bringing it around his back to grip either side and use it to pull Jensen in closer.
Jared knows he’s staring at Jensen’s mouth but he can’t help it. Jensen places his open palms on Jared’s bare chest and he gasps, lips parting as Jensen surges up to kiss him.
Jared stumbles back against the wall and his feet slip slightly in the small puddle they’ve created as Jensen keeps their mouths pressed together. Jensen slides his hands from Jared’s chest around to his back. His fingertips dig in as their chests come into contact and they gasp into each other’s mouths at that touch of cold, bare skin.
Jared drops the towel and puts his palms on either side of Jensen’s neck. He lets out a soft groan when Jensen licks into his mouth and sucks experimentally at his tongue. Jared hasn’t kissed a lot of people, but he’s pretty sure Jensen was born for this.
Jensen’s nipples drag across Jared’s bare skin, small and tight, and Jared lets his hands slide down Jensen’s back to trail his fingertips hungrily over damp, silky skin. Jared pulls his mouth away from Jensen’s and drags his lips across Jensen’s jaw, fixing his mouth to the sweet curve of his neck and pressing wet, suckling kisses along his skin. His thumbs find the groove of Jensen’s hipbones and slide through them before his hands come to rest at the swell of Jensen’s ass, fingertips pressing at the waistband of his shorts.
Jared pulls Jensen’s earlobe into his mouth and sucks gently on it as he pulls Jensen tighter against him. He feels a familiar spark in his belly, dick stirring in his shorts as he presses his mouth to Jensen’s again. Jensen lets out a soft whimper and clutches at Jared’s shoulders.
It’s an encouraging sound but it has the opposite effect on Jared. It brings him back to the present and makes him realize what they’re doing. His dick is hot and heavy in his shorts, pressed up against Jensen’s thigh. He puts his hands on Jensen’s hips and squeezes as he pushes him backwards and breaks their kiss.
Jensen stumbles a little and opens his eyes, panting heavily as he stares at Jared. His lips are swollen and he has little pink marks on his neck that Jared prays won’t turn into bruises. Jared closes his eyes and thumps his head against the wall. It’s upsetting that he let this go so far. They were caught up in the heat of the moment, but Jared should have stopped it sooner.
Jensen clears his throat and glances sideways as he reaches up to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand. Jared straightens up and rolls his lips into his mouth as he looks around awkwardly. When he finally dares to straighten his gaze Jensen is wearing a grateful expression, lips curving into a bashful little smirk.
Jared knows that if he let it, this would have gone further before Jensen was ready and it could have screwed everything up. Jared has to keep a level head. He can’t let hormones and soft skin and willing mouths make him forget how important it is that they go slow.
“Sorry,” Jared breathes. He tentatively reaches out to touch Jensen’s cheek. “You good?”
“Fine,” Jensen replies, pressing his cheek into Jared’s hand like an eager cat. “Just – a little intense.”
“Yeah,” Jared whispers. They jump and Jared drops his hand when they hear their names being called. They walk out of the laundry room and towards the living room.
“There you are,” Sandy says with a smirk. She and Sophia have changed into pajamas and Sophia is sitting behind Sandy on the couch, brushing out her long, wet hair. Chad and Misha are sitting on the floor with their damp butts on dry towels. “It got cold, so we’re done with the pool. We’re gonna puppy pile on the floor and watch a movie. You boys in?”
Jared looks over at Jensen with a raised eyebrow and Jensen nods. Jared grabs his and Jensen’s towels and shirts from where they were brought in with everybody’s stuff. He puts on his shirt and wraps his towel around his waist to protect the carpet from his damp swim trunks and Jensen does the same. Jared is a little sad to lose sight of all that skin, even if it will help him resist temptation.
Jared and Chad move the coffee table out of the way as Sandy and Sophia spread a few blankets out on the floor. A puppy pile pretty much is the best way to describe the position they end up in. Jared sits up against the back of the couch and Jensen sits between his splayed legs, back resting against his stomach. Chad props his head up on Jared’s hip and Sandy uses Jensen’s thigh as a pillow as Sophia curls around her. Misha has his head on Chad’s stomach and his arm is slung over Jared’s calf.
This is how they always lay. They’re perfectly content to be sprawled all over each other. Jensen squirms a little at first. He’s obviously uncomfortable with all the physical attention. It’s not long before he relaxes, reaching down to grab Jared’s arm and drape it over his chest. Jared dares to slip his hand under Jensen’s shirt to trace random patterns on his belly.
It doesn’t take long for Jensen to fall asleep with his head turned into Jared’s chest and fingers curled in his shirt. Sandy is smiling at them like they’re the cutest thing she’s ever seen and Chad snores fitfully, one arm wrapped around Misha’s chest.
Jared knows he’ll eventually have to wake Jensen up and take him home. He has church in the morning. Jared can’t imagine what goes on in Jensen’s head during that time. It must be so difficult pretending to be someone you’re not.
But for right now Jared just lets him sleep and lazily traces lopsided hearts on his sleep-warm skin.
Onto Part 5.