Jared is right in the middle of a pretty deep REM cycle when his cell phone rings on the nightstand, loud and obnoxious. He jerks awake, fumbling for the phone and nearly falling off of the bed. He finally grabs it and answers without looking at the display. His phone ringing in the middle of the night is not all that uncommon.
“Hello?” He answers. His voice is rough with sleep. He hears a humorless chuckle on the other end and it registers as vaguely familiar.
Jared sits straight up in bed, blinking a few times and looking at the clock. It’s after one in the morning and Jensen has never called him before. They text pretty regularly, but they’ve never talked on the phone. Somehow he doesn’t think Jensen is calling him this late just to chat.
“Jen? Are you okay?” He forces himself to sound calm even though he’s close to panicking. “What’s wrong?”
“Knew it. Even your voice is pretty,” he slurs. Jared frowns thoughtfully as Jensen hiccups and lets out a shuddering breath.
“Have you – are you drunk?” Jared asks while pushing his hair back from his face. Jensen laughs darkly. “What’s going on?”
“We had a visitor today. My big brother Josh,” Jensen says bitterly. His voice is tinged with sarcasm and thinly veiled disgust. “He’s so wonderful, Jared. Best son any parents could ever ask for, you know that? No one else could ever compare.”
“Jensen, come on,” Jared tries as he swings his legs over the side of his bed. He pinches the bridge of his nose, heart clenching at the defeated tone of Jensen’s voice.
“He brought me a survival kit. You know what it was? Booze and a Penthouse. How’s that for a role model, huh?” Jensen pauses and sucks in a shaky breath like he’s been crying. “Even if I wasn’t a faggot I still could never measure up to Josh.”
“Jensen!” Jared warns, wincing at the word and blinking at the sudden sting in his eyes. It’s completely devastating that the first time Jensen ever actually acknowledges his sexuality it’s with that word. “I don’t ever want to hear you say that again, you hear me? Now be quiet before someone hears you.”
“They’re gone,” Jensen replies sadly. “Went to stay with Josh and his pretty little wife all weekend.”
“You’re alone?” Jared asks. His throat goes bone-dry at the thought. He rolls out of bed and staggers across the room to step into his shoes, pulling a jacket on over his ratty pajamas.
“And you know what the saddest thing is? I looked at it, Jared. I fucking looked at that magazine and tried to see what they want me to see. I just don’t get it. That’s not what I want,” Jensen says, voice going from angry to devastated. “I just want you, Jared.”
Jared freezes halfway down the staircase and blinks away the sudden moisture in his eyes.
“Jensen, god,” he breathes. The heartbreak is so evident in Jensen’s voice. He barely spares the time to scribble a note for his mom before heading out of the front door. The air is freezing cold and he gasps at the sudden sensation of it on his face.
“You – you’re so good, Jared,” Jensen says in a shaky voice. “You’re beautiful and for some reason you want me. Me! Why is it so wrong that I want you, too? Why can’t I have you?”
“Calm down, Jensen, okay?” Jared says as he breaks into a jog. It’s only about four blocks to Jensen’s house but it could be miles as far as Jared is concerned. “I’ll be right there.”
“I just don’t understand how someone like you could be bad,” Jensen says, his voice thick with tears. “They’re wrong. You’re not bad, okay? And – I’m not, either.”
“Neither one of us are, okay?” Jared replies. He sighs in relief as Jensen’s house comes into view. “Can you please open the front door for me?”
Jensen lets out a little confused noise and Jared turns up the walkway just in time to see the front door start to open. He hangs up his phone and sticks it in his pocket as he jumps up onto the porch. Jensen looks up at him, eyes red-rimmed and wet. He looks so broken that Jared wraps his arms around him without hesitation.
It’s the first time he’s touched Jensen like this; the first time he’s had him in his arms.
Jensen drops his cell phone and clutches at Jared’s shoulder, burying his face in Jared’s neck. He lets out a tiny, broken sob and tears leak out of Jared’s eyes as well. He cups the back of Jensen’s head and keeps one arm around his waist, shuffling them into the house before he reaches back to shut the door.
“I’m sorry,” Jensen sniffles as he slicks Jared’s neck with his tears. Jared just holds him tighter and threads his fingers through the soft, short hairs at the base of Jensen’s neck.
“Hey,” he whispers in Jensen’s ear. “You don’t ever have to be sorry with me, remember?”
“I just – I can’t do this anymore,” Jensen cries, and Jared shushes him.
“You need to get some sleep,” Jared tells him before pulling back to take Jensen’s hand. Jensen looks down at their interlocked fingers and then back up at his face, giving him a tiny, watery smile. “There we go. Gorgeous.”
He brings his free hand up to wipe away the tears from Jensen’s cheeks before leading them to the stairs. They trudge up them silently and Jensen keeps a death grip on his hand the entire time.
Jensen leads them into a room with plain white walls and ordinary bedding. There is no imagination in this room. No pictures on the wall. Nothing strewn across the floor. Jared would feel so stifled if he had to live in here.
Jared pulls the covers back from the bed and kicks off his shoes before climbing in. He pulls Jensen down with him, curling his arms around him and tucking Jensen’s head under his chin. Jensen stiffens but Jared just shushes him as he cradles the back of his head in one giant hand.
Jensen lets out a shuddering breath and relaxes, sagging against Jared. His wet eyelashes brush Jared’s neck as he squeezes his eyes shut and Jared feels a tear slip down his own cheek.
Jensen doesn’t deserve this. He’s one of the greatest people Jared has ever had the pleasure of meeting and he shouldn’t have to deal with this mass of confusion and pain. He should be happy.
Jared cards his fingers through Jensen’s hair and rubs his back, letting Jensen cry silently into his neck. Jensen shifts and his bottom lip catches on Jared’s neck, soft and full.
“I like you,” Jensen whispers. His voice is tiny and breathless in Jared’s ear. “I like you so much it scares me.”
Jared doesn’t know what to say. Of course he feels the same. He likes Jensen so strongly. It’s an attraction and infatuation so quick and sudden it takes Jared’s breath away. He’s wanted to hear those words from Jensen for so long, but it shouldn’t be so painful.
“I like you too, Jensen,” Jared whispers, rolling his lips into his mouth and biting down. The urge to kiss Jensen’s forehead is almost impossible to resist. Jensen lets out a tiny sob and Jared squeezes his eyes shut, holding Jensen tighter. His face is burning hot against Jared’s neck and he can smell the alcohol on his breath. “Just go to sleep and we can talk in the morning, okay?”
“Why is it so bad to want you?” Jensen asks, completely ignoring Jared’s suggestion. “You’re so beautiful, Jared. You care so much. And sometimes – “
He cuts himself off and Jared thinks maybe he’ll finally shut up but instead Jensen shifts his weight. He cranes his head back and presses a sloppy kiss to Jared’s jaw. He freezes and his eyes snap open as Jensen clumsily leans over him.
“God, sometimes I just want,” Jensen mumbles as he leans in.
His intent is obvious. Jared turns his head at the last minute and Jensen catches his cheek instead of his mouth, full lips pressing against his skin. Jensen lets out a soft little noise, something pained. He pulls away from Jared, sitting up and cutting off all contact. “I’m – I’m sorry. I thought – oh god, I’m so stupid.”
“No,” Jared says insistently. He sits up and shifts around until he’s positioned in front of Jensen. He has his eyes squeezed shut and his face is red and glistening with tears. “Jensen, look at me.”
When he doesn’t Jared cups his cheek in one tender hand, thumb sweeping under one eye softly until damp lashes flutter open. He looks ashamed and Jared scoots closer.
“Jensen, you have no idea how badly I want to kiss you,” he says. His hand slides down so his thumb can just barely trace that plump bottom lip. “I’ve thought about it so many times. But Jen, it can’t be like this.”
Jensen just stares at him, eyes wide and feverish. Jared licks his lips and places a shaky hand on Jensen’s knee. He leans in closer, so close their foreheads nearly touch.
“I want you to kiss me when you’re smiling,” Jared says shakily. He sucks in a shaky breath and looks into Jensen’s haunted green eyes. “I want you to kiss me when I make you laugh. It should be something amazing, something that comes from some fun, spontaneous moment and I want it to be because you’re happy, not because you’re confused and upset, okay?”
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to,” Jensen admits in a choked voice. Jared reaches up to put his hands on Jensen’s cheeks, pressing their foreheads together. His vision blurs slightly from the close proximity but he doesn’t dare close his eyes and he’s relieved to see that Jensen doesn’t either.
“I will wait for you,” Jared replies, voice rough and thick with emotion. Jensen lets out a tiny sob and reaches up to wrap his fingers around Jared’s wrists. “I will wait as long as it takes, because I – well, I really care about you, Jen. I’ve never felt for anyone the way I feel for you.”
“Neither have I,” Jensen admits. Jared rubs their noses together, something soft and silly.
He lets out a sigh and strokes his thumb across Jensen’s cheek.
“I’m sorry I showed up and started screwing up your life, Jen,” Jared says, and he means that. He can’t help but thinking that if he hadn’t run up to Jensen that day in the cafeteria like some overeager puppy, Jensen would be fine right now. Still hiding himself, still unhappy, but maybe he wouldn’t be crying – all torn up and twisted and wrecked.
“Don’t ever apologize for that,” Jensen says, suddenly stern. He squeezes Jared’s wrists tightly and stares right into Jared’s eyes. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I – I think you’re saving me, Jared. You can’t leave now.”
“I won’t,” Jared says adamantly. “I’m here. I’m not leaving until you tell me to. Until you don’t need me anymore.”
“Well,” Jensen sniffs, “I hope you’re prepared to stick around.”
Jared laughs then, small and shaky, and this time he just can’t help but to press a tiny kiss to Jensen’s forehead.
Jensen sighs, and it’s almost a happy sound.
When Jensen wakes up the next morning it takes him a minute to understand exactly what is going on.
Someone clearly stomped on his skull. After stuffing his mouth with ash, obviously. And maybe kicking him in the stomach.
So this is a hangover.
That doesn’t really explain the hot, heavy weight pressed up against his back. Jensen opens his eyes slowly and yawns so hugely his jaw cracks. Whatever it is, it’s warm and snuggly and protects him from the early morning chill seeping through the windows. He presses back against that heat and sighs deeply.
Jensen blinks and looks down. His eyes widen when he spots the tan, strong hand resting on his belly. His lungs sort of stop working and he turns his head slightly until he can feel Jared’s silky hair against his cheek.
“Oh god,” Jensen moans, scrambling off of the bed. He gets dizzy and staggers over to his bathroom door to clutch the frame for support. He slaps his hand over his eyes and sags against the wall. “Oh god!”
“Mm,” Jared sighs. He squirms against the bed and stretches out his arms and legs. His tee shirt rides up and Jensen can see the tan expanse of his back, skin so soft and warm looking.
A boy slept in his bed. He slept with a boy in his parent’s house. He isn’t sure how to process that.
Jared rolls onto his side and opens his eyes, sleepy gaze landing on Jensen. He shrinks back against the wall and his hands slide into his hair. Jared sits up, bites down on his lip and holds up a hand.
“Don’t freak out,” Jared says obstinately as he swings his legs over the side of the bed. “You’re not going to freak out, right?”
“Um,” Jensen says. He sort of blinks a few times to stall. “Can I get back to you on that?”
“No.” Jared gets off of the bed and comes to stand in front of Jensen. He tentatively reaches out to touch Jensen’s cheek, the soft pad of his thumb swiping underneath his puffy eye. “You remember everything from last night, right?”
Jensen nods and his cheeks flush with embarrassment. Jared just smiles and tugs playfully on Jensen’s earlobe.
“Good. So we’re on the same page,” Jared says, cupping Jensen’s cheek again before dropping his hands. He puts them on his hips and looks around Jensen’s sparse bedroom thoughtfully before finally shaking his head. “Yeah, this isn’t gonna work for me. Wash your face, brush your teeth, and meet me downstairs.”
“Huh?” Jensen replies. His skin still tingles from Jared’s gentle touch. “Why?”
“We’re going to my house,” Jared tells him. Jensen raises an eyebrow. “Because no offense, dude? But your house is sort of like, immensely stifling. And I want to cure your wicked hangover.”
“How’d you know I have a hangover?” Jensen asks as he rubs his temples. Jared just smirks and lets out a low chuckle.
“I’m best friends with Chad,” he says. “I know a hangover when I see one. Now seriously, I want you downstairs in ten minutes.”
“Um, okay.” Jensen nods slightly and turns towards his bathroom. Jared smiles and heads for the door.
“And don’t change out of your pajamas!” Jared calls over his shoulder. “We’re not doing shit all day and I want you comfy!”
Jensen snorts and shuts his bathroom door after flipping on the light. He grips the edge of the counter and stares at himself in the mirror. He looks pretty horrible – pale skin, bloodshot eyes, and cracked lips.
He washes his face and brushes his teeth, hissing when he takes a swig of mouthwash and it stings his lips. He relieves his bladder, washes his hands, puts on his glasses, and takes a deep breath before heading downstairs.
Jared’s back is to him when he reaches the dining room. He’s got one arm crossed against his chest and the other is holding a glass of water. He’s staring at the painting of the Last Supper hanging over the dining room table.
His mother is just classy like that.
“Oh, hey,” Jared says, turning around and holding out the glass. “Drink this. And take these.”
He drops two Tylenol into Jensen’s hand. He assumes Jared found them in the cabinet next to the refrigerator. He takes the pills and chugs the water even though it hurts his stomach. When he’s done he sets the glass on the counter and not in the sink like he’s supposed to.
“Ready to get out of here?” Jared asks, and Jensen nods so hard it hurts his head.
“Yes,” he breathes. He’s not even surprised by how much he means it.
They walk to Jared’s house in relative silence, Jensen all wrapped up in the sweatshirt Jared gave him. It’s freezing but Jared looks perfectly content in his light jacket and flip flops, hands stuffed in the pockets of his flannel pants.
The pants are actually pink with cupcakes on them, and Jensen doesn’t know how he didn’t notice that last night. It sort of terrifies him and makes him want to laugh at the same time.
It’s still that quiet time of the morning. There’s still dew on the plants and the birds are still chirping. Dedicated joggers are out with their dogs and their expensive shoes. They’ve all got headphones on and none of them pay any attention to the two teenagers walking down the street, even if one of them is wearing hot pink flannel pants covered in cupcakes topped with cherries.
Jared’s house is a quaint one story tucked at the back of a cul-de-sac. It has a sagging porch and there are brown spots littering the front yard.
Jared unlocks the door and ushers Jensen in. He walks inside slowly and looks around with slight trepidation. He’s never been to Jared’s house before. The furniture looks old and used; sofa slumped slightly in the middle.
There are dishes in the sink and Jensen is nearly knocked over by two giant dogs. Once the initial shock wears off, he bends over to greet them just as enthusiastically as they greeted him.
“Hey guys!” Jensen chirps. He laughs when the bigger dog licks his face and knocks his glasses askew. He looks up to see Jared watching him fondly, hair falling in his face.
“What?” Jensen asks as his fingers dig into the dog’s fur. The slightly smaller one nudges his thigh and he pets her as well.
“They like you,” Jared says softly, reaching up to tuck his hair behind one ear. “Knew they would. They’re excellent judges of character.”
“What are their names?” Jensen asks. He stands upright again as the dogs appear to lose interest in the new arrival and wander back towards their beds.
“The big one is Harley,” Jared tells him, “and Sadie is my baby girl.” Jensen nods and fixes his glasses before looking around the room again.
“I like your house,” he says. He glances over at Jared to see him appraising his home with critical eyes, seemingly cataloguing every imperfection. He finally shrugs.
“Meh, it’s a dump,” Jared says as he scratches the back of his head. “But it’s home.”
“No, it’s –“ Jensen trails off as he looks around the living room again. There’s color on the walls, pictures of people smiling and laughing. There are stacks of DVDs everywhere and a dirty cereal bowl and spoon on the coffee table, surrounded by magazines and books. “It’s great.”
“Thanks,” Jared says. “Go plop on the couch while I make you some breakfast.”
“Jared, you don’t have to –“
“Go,” Jared says again, pointing towards the couch and trying to appear menacing. Jensen laughs softly and heads into the living room. He sits on the couch and glances at the blank screen of the television. There’s a sudden squeak to his left and it makes him jump. He looks over to see Sadie slobbering happily on a rubber ball and he smiles. “Remote’s on the table, Jen!”
Jensen looks down at the remote and snatches it, powering on the television and sinking back against the cushions. He flips through the channels and then turns on the guide. His eyes widen when he sees the time.
“I’m supposed to be at church right now,” Jensen says, mostly to himself.
“Oh yeah?” Jared asks. He flops down onto the couch next to Jensen. The sudden movement startles him and he jumps slightly. For someone so big and loud, Jared sure moves quietly.
“Yeah,” he says as he fumbles with the tie of his pajama pants. It feels sort of weird not being at church on a Sunday morning, but at the same time it’s a massive relief. It’s not exactly his favorite part of the week. “I take it you don’t go to church?”
“Nah,” Jared says flippantly. “Last time I tried, my skin started burning as soon as I walked through the door.” Jensen snorts at the slightly inappropriate joke. Then he thinks of what his mother’s face would look like and wants to laugh even harder.
“No,” Jared says quietly, brows furrowing as he looks down at his lap. “We used to go when I was a kid. But after my dad died my mom sort of stopped going. I guess it didn’t mean the same to her, you know? She lost her faith, I think.”
“Oh, Jared.” Jensen reaches out to put his hand on Jared’s knee without really thinking about it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t – how old were you?”
“Five,” Jared says, squirming a little. “I don’t really – how do you like your eggs?”
“Huh?” Jensen is a little stunned by the sudden change of subject. Jared jumps up, stretching his arms out and scratching at his belly.
“Eggs,” Jared repeats as he points towards the kitchen. Jensen blinks and sits back against the couch.
“Oh. Scrambled, I guess,” Jensen says, and Jared nods as he takes off for the kitchen. Jensen shakes his head and watches Sadie tear into her ball.
“Sadie, give it a rest!” Jared calls from the kitchen. All’s quiet for a moment, and then another loud squeak penetrates the silence. “Sadie!”
Sadie spits out the ball and it rolls across the floor. She huffs and flops back down on her cushion. Jensen laughs.
Jared comes out of the kitchen a few minutes later carrying two mismatching plates, one in each hand. He has a carton of orange juice tucked under one arm and two plastic party cups in his teeth.
“I would have come to help you, Jared!” Jensen gets up and takes the plates from Jared’s hands. He sets them on the coffee table and Jared sets down the orange juice and cups.
“Voila!” Jared shouts, waving a hand over the food with a flourish. “We have Eggos, scrambled eggs with cheese – you like cheese, right? – and fresh strawberries. Bitch, tell me I’m awesome!”
“You’re awesome.” Jensen laughs and Jared winks at him. He pours out two glasses of juice and flops down on the couch.
“I know. You don’t have to tell me.”
“You just – “ Jensen protests, rolling his eyes when Jared just winks again.
“Eat your breakfast,” Jared says as he snatches the remote. “I’m gonna put in a movie.” Jared rifles through a stack of DVDs on the end table and finally decides on one, holding it up for Jensen to see. “I’m assuming you’ve never seen Empire Records.”
“You’d be right,” Jensen replies. Jared makes a face before stepping up on the coffee table to jump over it and land in front of the television.
“Well, that shit ends here.” Jared puts the DVD in and jumps back over the table. Jensen doesn’t know why he doesn’t just walk around. That would probably be too easy. “Eat. No one likes soggy Eggos.”
Jensen grabs his plate and sets it in his lap, squashed into one side of the couch. Jared takes his plate and sits on the other side. That leaves an entire cushion separating them.
Jensen can’t help but to think that it’s just too much space.
It doesn’t take them long to plow through their food, and by the time they’re done Jensen looks a little better. His skin has some color to it and his eyes look a little brighter.
“Feel better?” Jared asks once Jensen chugs the last of his juice and sets the cup on the coffee table. Jensen looks over at him and smiles, lips all sticky and shiny.
Jared can’t even describe how happy he is to have Jensen here with him, nestled into the cushions of his lumpy couch. He’d been terrified when he woke up that morning to the sight of Jensen quietly freaking out in the corner of his room and he’s pleased at how well Jensen is handling the situation.
Jensen is here, eating breakfast with Jared in his pajamas on a Sunday morning, all wrapped up in Jared’s jacket.
That alone is more than he ever dreamed of.
Jensen seems to be enjoying the movie, even laughing at various parts of it. Jared didn’t pick Empire Records at random. He chose it because it deals with sensitive issues – sex, drugs, and suicide to name a few – but deep down it’s a movie about kids with problems that just want to be happy with who they are.
It’s a lesson Jensen could stand to learn.
Jared gets engrossed in the movie, and he’s surprised to feel the cushions shift as Jensen scoots infinitesimally closer to him. His breath catches in his throat and he tries not to move.
If Jensen wants any more physical contact he’s going to have to instigate it. That’s been Jared’s rule from the beginning. He breaks it sometimes by putting his hand low on Jensen’s back when he’s leading him somewhere or curling his fingers around Jensen’s wrist when he gets nervous. He broke it last night because of extenuating circumstances. Jensen was falling apart, and Jared needed to hold him together. Desperate times call for desperate measures and all that.
There is no way that Jared can deny the effect having Jensen in his arms had on him. It made him dizzy and it made him ache. He craves it so bad he can taste it, but Jensen has to be the one to take that next step.
He has to know Jensen wants this as badly as he does, if that’s even possible.
Jared watches Jensen out of the corner of his eye. It doesn’t escape his attention that Jensen turns his head forward every time Jared looks to the side. Jensen bites down on his bottom lip and curls his fingers into a fist. He looks at his own hand and then over at Jared again, green eyes locking on Jared’s hand resting lax against his thigh.
Jared wants to either laugh or cry; he isn’t really sure which.
Jared faces forward and acts like he’s completely unaware of Jensen’s actions. It’s cute how subtle he thinks he’s being.
Jensen glances up at Jared’s face and then down at his hand again. He slides his own hand across the cushion but stops halfway before pulling it back and furrowing his brow.
Jared brings his hand up to his mouth to cover a fake yawn before letting it fall to the cushion again, landing palm up in the middle of it. Jensen looks over at it, eyes flickering from Jared’s face to his hand again, and Jared bites down on a smirk.
Jensen flexes his fingers a few times before sliding his hand out to meet Jared’s. His fingertips skitter across his open palm and sends shivers down Jared’s spine. He remains perfectly still as Jensen tentatively traces the lines of his palm, fingertip stroking across the small sliver of a scar he got from falling out of a tree when he was nine. Jensen plucks at his rubber bracelets and traces the veins in his wrist.
Jared finally spreads his fingers, still facing the television. His eyeballs sort of hurt from looking to the side for so long, but it’s worth it when Jensen finally slips his fingers between Jared’s. There’s only a moment of hesitation before he squeezes slightly and brings their palms together.
Jensen lets out a deep breath and Jared ducks his head with a smile. He clutches Jensen’s hand and rubs his thumb back and forth across the back of it.
It’s sort of amazing how good holding hands with someone can feel. Jared just wants to sit there forever and let the warmth from his hand seep into Jensen’s cool palm.
Jared doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t even really look at Jensen because he wants to keep this casual. Holding hands shouldn’t be a big deal.
But it is. For Jensen, it’s a giant fucking leap. Jared couldn’t wipe the grin off of his face if you paid him.
Jensen’s heart is pounding against his ribcage but he did it. He’s holding Jared’s hand. Jared’s touch affects him the same as it always has – winds him up and calms him down at the same time, scares him and soothes him all at once. It’s a strange juxtaposition that does funny things to Jensen’s heart and his head.
Jensen scoots ever so closer during the rest of the movie, shifting until there’s just enough space for their entwined hands to rest in the seam of their neighboring couch cushions.
The movie ends, the credits start to roll, and Jensen realizes he has no idea what happened in the second half. He was too busy concentrating on the feel of Jared’s hand in his and the fluttering butterflies in his stomach to pay attention.
Jared leans forward to grab the remote and their grip on each other breaks apart. Jensen curls his fingers into a fist and feels his cheeks heat up. Jared presses himself back against the back of the couch, nestled in the corner like he doesn’t plan on moving for awhile. He kicks his bare feet up on the coffee table and stretches his arm out along the back of the sofa. He gives Jensen a quick glance and then looks back at the TV, flipping idly through the channels.
Jensen looks up and down the expanse of Jared’s side. He looks so warm and soft somehow, even with all that muscle and bone. Jensen’s heart thumps against his ribcage so hard it’s a wonder Jared can’t hear it.
There’s a choice to be made here. It scares Jensen how easily he reaches a decision.
Before he can think better of it Jensen curls his legs under himself and slides in to fit against Jared’s side. He swallows hard and tucks his shoulder under Jared’s arm, resting his head on Jared’s shoulder and curling in slightly to put his hand on his belly.
“Mm,” Jared sighs. He removes his arm from the back of the couch and curls it around Jensen’s shoulders. His fingertips dip under the baggy sweatshirt to rest against his bare collarbone and Jensen shivers. “You good?”
Jensen lets out a deep breath and practically melts against Jared’s side. They fit together seamlessly, all their dips and curves piecing together. Jared’s fingers trail softly back and forth across his collarbone and his stomach is flat and hard under Jensen’s fingers. Jensen’s eyes droop and he sighs. It feels like he’s finally relaxing for the first time in years.
“Yeah,” Jensen breathes. Jared lets go of the remote to tangle his fingers with Jensen’s on his stomach. Jensen smiles and his lips brush the collar of Jared’s tee shirt. “I’m really good.”
Jensen can think of a thousand reasons why he shouldn’t be here. But then Jared slides his fingertips up the side up Jensen’s neck and around the shell of his ear before burying his fingers in Jensen’s hair, and for once it’s not hard to push those things to the back of his mind.
Jared tries to explain the show playing on the television to him, something about a spy that got fired, but Jensen isn’t really paying attention. Jared’s hand keeps moving – petting at his hair, squeezing the back of his neck, and rubbing circles up and down his back. The tips of his fingers catch the hem of Jensen’s shirt and brush against his bare skin before sliding back up to his hair.
Jensen sighs happily, close to purring as his eyes slip shut. Jensen shoves his free hand in the small gap between Jared’s back and the couch, settling in and squeezing Jared’s hand again before falling asleep.
Jared dozes in and out well into the afternoon while Jensen sleeps on unperturbed.
He’s completely knocked out, nearly unconscious against Jared’s chest. He sleeps like someone who rarely gets the chance to. It’s almost like he’s making up for lost time. Jared doesn’t disturb him because he knows Jensen needs the rest.
When his back starts to hurt he carefully shifts them into a more prone position so he can lie down as well. He keeps one leg pressed against the back of the couch and the other dangling off of the edge. Jensen just snuffles a little, tucking one of his legs between Jared’s and curling his fingers in the front of Jared’s shirt without waking up.
Jared bites down on a grin and wraps one arm snug around Jensen’s torso. The front door opens and Jared holds out a hand and shushes the dogs sternly. They whine a little and wag their tails but they stay put, ears perked up.
His mom comes in, yawning blearily and hanging her purse up on the hook by the door. She worked the opening shift at the grocery store and apparently it’s already over. Jared hadn’t realized it had gotten to be the middle of the afternoon.
“Hey,” she says. She freezes when she turns to see them on the couch. Jared holds a finger to his lips and she nods, silently tiptoeing around the back of the couch until she’s standing over Jared’s head.
Jensen, Jared mouths silently. Sherri just rolls her eyes and mouths back no, really? Sarcasm even in silence. Then Jared remembers his panicked note, a quickly scribbled Jen needs me. Have my phone. before running out the door the previous night.
“Is he okay?” She whispers, and Jared gently cradles the back of his head. He ponders the question for a moment and looks back up at her.
“He will be,” he answers as quietly as he can. Sherri smiles and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Can I meet him?” She asks as she looks curiously at the boy all wrapped up in her son’s arms. Jared bites his lip and slides his hand down Jensen’s back slowly. Sadie ends up making the decision for him when she finally lets out a sharp yip when she doesn’t get the attention she feels she deserves.
Jensen shifts and then stiffens, looking up at Jared with wide eyes. He uncurls his hand from Jared’s shirt and places it flat against his chest. Then his eyes finally drift over to Sherri and he scrambles into a sitting position. He looks from Jared to his mother and back with a terrified expression.
So much for being relaxed.
“Hi Jensen,” she says warmly, smiling widely at him. “Wow, you’re as gorgeous as Jared said you were. Didn’t think that’d be possible, the way he goes on.”
Jensen’s cheeks flush bright red and he blinks. Jared huffs a sigh and sits up, glaring slightly at his mother.
“Oh wow,” Jared breathes. “Embarrassment right off the bat. Thanks bunches.”
“It’s my job, kid,” Sherri says, playfully tapping him on the back of the head. “Should be used to it by now.”
“You’d think,” Jared mumbles. “Jensen, this is my mom, Sherri. Mom, this is Jensen.”
“It’s so nice to finally meet you,” Sherri says with a friendly smile, voice full of warmth. Jensen blinks again. He looks sleepy and confused and scared. Sherri’s smile falters when Jensen doesn’t reply and she looks at Jared askance before pointing her gaze at Jensen again. He finally snaps out of it, clearing his throat and smiling, shaky but polite.
“Hello,” he says softly. He raises his head to shyly meet her gaze. “It’s good to meet you, Mrs. Padalecki.”
“Oh, no.” She laughs and shakes her head. “None of that. It’s Sherri, kid. Anything else makes me feel old. And I’m not old, am I?” She nudges Jared’s shoulder and he smirks as he rolls his eyes.
“No ma’am.” She smacks him again. Jared sighs exasperatedly.
“Smartass,” she says fondly, and Jared laughs.
Jensen watches their exchange with wide eyes, like he had no idea mothers and sons actually joked around with each other. He keeps looking at Jared like he’s waiting for him to get punished and Jared’s smile fades a little.
“Are you staying for dinner, Jensen?” Sherri asks, clapping her hands together. “We have some… leftover Chinese? Or, ooh! We could order a pizza!”
“I find it hilarious you work at a grocery store and there are never any groceries in the house,” Jared tells her. She puts her hand over his mouth and digs her fingertips into his cheeks. Jared goes fishface and flails, smacking her arm away from his face.
“I’d really like to,” Jensen says. He bites his bottom lip and gives them a sad smile. “But I should probably go home. But thank you, Mrs – Sherri.”
“Are you sure, sweetheart?” Sherri asks. Jensen looks up at the pet name, eyes going glassy. “We’d love to have you.”
“N-no, I should really go,” he gets out. Sherri nods and Jensen looks over at Jared, opening his mouth and then snapping it shut again. Jared gives his mom a meaningful look and she jumps a little, like she’s just realizing she might be intruding.
“Okay, Jensen,” she says. “It was really nice to meet you. Don’t be a stranger, okay? Our door is always open for you. Now I’m gonna go clean up.” She leans over the back of the sofa and kisses the top of Jared’s head. He scrunches up his nose and then she leans over and presses a quick kiss to the top of Jensen’s head as well. He looks surprised, blinking and looking up at her with an awed expression. “Be good, kids.”
She whistles as she leaves the room and disappears down the hall. Jared waits until he hears her door shut, loudly because the woman is anything less than subtle, and he looks back over at Jensen. He’s biting down on his lip so hard that Jared winces in sympathy.
“She’s…” Jensen says, trailing off and looking towards the hall. Jared raises an eyebrow.
“Weird?” Jared suggests. “Or quirky. She gets quirky a lot. It can’t be funny, no matter how much she thinks she is.”
“Amazing,” Jensen says, looking at Jared again. “You should be thankful.”
“I am,” Jared replies seriously. Jensen’s tone wipes the smile from his face. “I was joking. My mom – well, there’s no one better than her, you know?”
A bitter smirk mars Jensen’s face for a moment before he rolls his lips into his mouth, swallowing hard as he finally stands up. Jared gets up too, shaking out his still-slightly-numb left leg. Jensen runs his fingers through his hair and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He looks around the room like he’s trying to memorize it, like he might not ever see it again.
“I’ll walk you home,” Jared offers. Jensen shakes his head.
“No, that’s okay,” he replies, shrugging one shoulder. “I don’t know if they’re back yet.”
“Alright.” Jared relents. He doesn’t want to push the issue. He walks Jensen to the door and reaches out to snag his wrist between his thumb and forefinger. “Hey, you know you’re welcome over here any time, right?”
“Thanks,” Jensen says, nodding a little before looking up to meet Jared’s eyes. Jared can’t look away, not even if he wanted to. “For, you know – everything.”
Jared contemplates brushing it off or shrugging his shoulders and saying it’s no big deal. Except that it is. So instead he curls his hand more firmly around Jensen’s wrist, thumb swiping across his palm. Jensen squeezes the digit and Jared smiles.
“You’re welcome,” Jared replies. “See you tomorrow?”
Jensen nods and Jared takes a chance, lifting the arm Jensen isn’t touching in a slight invitation. Jensen smiles and his eyes go a little glassy as he steps into Jared’s embrace. He doesn’t hug back, just squeezes Jared’s thumb in a death grip and buries his face in Jared’s neck. Jared swallows thickly as he wraps an arm around Jensen’s shoulders and hugs him tight against his chest for a long moment.
The end of Jared’s nose skims the shell of Jensen’s ear and he presses a tiny, barely there kiss to the freckled tip of it. He feels Jensen shudder and figures it’s time to pull away.
They share another long look, and then Jensen turns to leave. He shuts the door behind him and Jared presses his forehead against it, fighting the sudden urge to cry.
It feels like sending Jensen off to battle, sending him somewhere Jared can’t do anything to protect him.
Jared stands there for a long time with his forehead pressed against the cool wood of his front door. Harley comes over to him and whines as he presses his cold, wet nose into Jared’s palm.
A gentle hand presses between his shoulder blades and Jared opens his eyes. He turns around and looks at his mom with a pained expression. Her eyes crinkle just slightly at the corners as she watches him, and Jared buries his face in her shoulder.
“He’ll find his way,” she says, wrapping her arms around him and rubbing his back. He has to stoop to let her hug him like this and for a moment he fiercely misses being a little boy. “He’ll be okay.”
“How do you know?” Jared asks miserably. His mom presses a kiss to the side of his head.
“He has you.”
Jensen gets a little sadder with every step he takes that brings him closer to home, because Jared’s house feels more like home than his house ever has.
And that’s depressing. A little scary too.
Like he’s been feeling so often lately, he isn’t sure what to make of everything that’s happened in the last twenty-four hours. All he knows is that being in Jared’s arms felt right, better than anything has ever felt before.
Too bad it’s apparently all wrong.
Jensen shakes his head and pinches the bridge of his nose, huffing out an angry sigh. He rounds the corner onto his street and stumbles to a halt when he sees the lights on through the window. Jensen is suddenly nervous, like they’ll be able to look at him and just know what he’s been up to, like his overwhelming affection and desire for this boy will be written in neon letters all over his blushing face.
He’s afraid they’ll look at him and see the hearts in his eyes.
Jensen walks into the house slowly with his head hanging low and his shoulders drooping like a heavy weight has just been laid across his back. His parents are in the living room, still dressed in their church clothes while Jensen is in his ratty sweats that he’s been wearing for going on two days.
“Jensen,” his father says, looking sternly at him. Golf is playing on the television and a bible is open on the pristine coffee table. Jensen tears his eyes away from it, equal parts ashamed and annoyed. “Where have you been? We’ve been calling you.”
“Oh,” Jensen says. He pats the pockets of his jacket and then his pants and comes up empty. His eyes widen and he glances under the table in the foyer, where his phone skittered to when he dropped it the night before. The battery must have died. He leaves it there. “I went to the library to read up on my paper. I must have forgotten my phone.”
“You went to the library looking like that?” His mother sneers as she looks him up and down. “We don’t pay for your phone so you can leave it when you go out, you know.”
“I know,” Jensen says with eyes trained on his shoes. “I’m sorry.”
They quiet down after that, losing interest in him now that they’ve exhausted their reasons to be mad at him. Jensen takes the opportunity to flee and scurries up the stairs two at a time.
He shuts his bedroom door and heads into the bathroom. It takes only a second for his chest to get tight, breath hitching as he undresses and climbs into the shower. He makes the water as hot as he can stand it and lets it burn his skin as he grips the sides of his head.
He’s just – he’s feeling too much. It’s devastatingly overwhelming and he doesn’t know how to handle it. He tries to pin down exactly what it is that he’s feeling, but it’s impossible. It’s like trying to catch smoke.
First, there’s happiness. Jared is amazing, and the way Jensen’s heart expands and constricts when he’s in the same room as him is like nothing he’s ever felt before. The pure elation he feels when Jared touches him, when the pads of his fingers and the thin skin of his lips brush hesitantly across his skin, is something he never thought he could feel.
There’s still that little voice in his head that sounds suspiciously like his mother’s, screaming that what he’s doing is disgusting. It’s a sin, wanting to be with Jared like that, letting Jared touch him. He should be ashamed of himself. He should feel guilty for going against everything his parents have ever taught him.
And he’s sad that he has to be at war with himself and doubt something that makes him happy for the first time in his life just because of something he isn’t even sure he believes in.
Then there’s the anger. Why should he be ashamed of what he feels for Jared? Why should he disavow something so all encompassing and intense that it takes his breath away day after day? His heart pounds when he sees Jared’s face and his knees go weak when Jared smiles. Jared makes him feel like he’s worth something, like maybe he’s special, and that’s wrong?
So he’s happy, but he’s ashamed of it. He’s sad that he’s ashamed, and angry that he’s sad.
That’s when Jensen starts to cry.
Harsh, hiccupping sobs escape his lips with a sudden force that shocks him, and he leans back against the wall of the shower and buries his face in his hands. It’s too much. He can’t deal with all of this. He can’t handle so many conflicting emotions warring inside of him.
It’s tearing him apart.
Sure, Jensen’s been sad for a long time. This thing with Jared has been eating him up inside and he’s been keeping secrets for years, but he’s never let himself cry. Not like this.
But he can’t take it anymore. He cries until he exhausts himself, until he feels raw and hollowed out and the water is running cold against his skin.
Being happy shouldn’t be so hard. Finding the missing piece of your heart shouldn’t make it feel like it’s breaking.
The soft touch of reverent hands on trembling skin shouldn’t feel like drowning.
But it does.
Onto Part 4.