[six months later]
Jared trudges into his apartment and tosses his fedora on the coffee table before dropping tiredly onto the sofa.
Since his return to the concrete jungle, he’s been quite the busy little detective. Somehow, some way, his real name was kept out of the press. All media coverage of the arrest of Katie Cassidy and death of Bradley Cooper cited one Jake Spade, a private investigator from New York City, as being the one to crack the case.
And well, it turns out that solving one of the most talked about crimes of the century is all the advertising his little racket needed to make it big. Not only is his phone ringing off the hook, but the police department has actually taken to legitimately hiring him on as a consultant for various cases as opposed to just waiting for him to solve them on his own.
He refuses to bring on a partner, but he’s starting to think that hiring a receptionist might not be such a bad idea. Maybe someone well-versed in that profession wouldn’t double-book Jared’s time as much as he seems to.
So, Jared has been a busy little bee in the last six months. He’s always working, rarely getting a full night’s sleep. But mainly, he does a lot of math.
It’s been six months (one hundred and seventy-six days) since he left Los Angeles (Jensen), which is an entire country (two thousand, seven hundred, and eighty-three miles) away. In those six months, he’s seen Jensen in person nine times, which averages out to one-point-five times a month. Nine times in six months is actually quite often for the average long distance couple, but that’s still only nine days out of one hundred and seventy-six, and that equals not nearly enough time.
Jared loves Jensen, fully and completely, and he can feel it every single time his heart beats. He knows Jensen feels the same about him. Perhaps not to the same degree, as Jared’s feelings have had over a decade to blossom and fester and twist and turn into whatever it is that he feels now. Maybe Jensen really did love him all along, and those feelings have been lying dormant for ten years (three thousand, six hundred and fifty wasted days, with a few more tossed in if you count the leap years), but what he feels now is mostly shiny and new.
But still, with as much as they care for each other, they aren’t one of those lovey-dovey couples that can’t go five minutes without talking. Jared has never been much of a phone person anyway. Sure, not a day goes by that they don’t at least text each other, but rarely do they lie in bed late at night and talk and talk to make up for all the time they aren’t getting together.
It happens sometimes, and it’s nice when it does, but it’s not an everyday occurrence.
So, naturally, they fight a lot. They both have such volatile personalities to begin with, and neither of them want to admit how much they miss the other, so they turn their stress and displeasure with their situation into an emotion that they’re both intimately familiar with: anger.
They broke up once, about two months into their relationship. It’s still strange to call it a relationship. It’s even stranger to try to fit them into the template of a relationship, to call Jensen his boyfriend, to remember things like favorite colors and anniversaries and allergies. (Jared knew all of these things as pertaining to Jensen anyway, but now he’s actually required to.)
He can’t even remember what they were fighting about. It was something ridiculous and Jared recalls how badly he wanted to grab Jensen by the shoulders and just shake him, or kiss him just to make him shut his stupid mouth. The distance between them seemed so great in that moment, light-years instead of miles, and Jared didn’t know if he could handle it. He’d waited ten years for Jensen to fall for him, only to get on a plane and leave him behind. How was that fair?
So, they fought. They yelled and insulted each other and Jared threw a lamp against the wall only to keep himself from throwing his phone. It’s strange to fight with someone that you talk to more than you see. Fighting over the phone isn’t something Jared likes to do. He can’t use any of his tricks. He can’t see Jensen’s eyes or the way he’s holding his shoulders or how his lips are curved. All he has is a voice, an angry one at that, which isn’t much to go on.
This lasted just over a day – a whole, excruciating twenty-seven hours. Jared woke up to banging on his door in the middle of the following night, and opened it to see Jensen in a rumpled three-piece suit and ruffled hair.
They didn’t talk that night. They had done enough of that already. They made up and reformed their unorthodox relationship without using any words at all.
Jared doesn’t go to L.A. if he can help it. Jensen usually comes to him. He’s the one with the jet, after all. The only exception was a driver coming into Jared’s office in the middle of the day and informing him that the Ackles jet was gassed up and ready for him. As it turns out, Jared had mentioned wanting to see a movie that was coming out soon, and Jensen managed to get them tickets to the premiere. Apparently this was meant to be a surprise.
It was a very sweet gesture in a Jensen sort of way, but it caused a lot of problems for Jared. He had to reschedule meetings and piss off Sergeant Fuller by disappearing in the middle of a case, but he didn’t want to let Jensen down. The attention at the event itself was bothersome and Jared even had to wear a tuxedo. Doing shots with the films’ A-list stars at the after party was sort of fun, but still pretty awkward.
But still, it was worth it to fall asleep in Jensen’s arms that night. Even if it was L.A., and even if he had to leave by dawn the next morning.
So, it’s hard, but ultimately worth it. Sometimes Jared feels a bit like an addict trying to come down. All he ever wants is to see Jensen’s face, all day every day. That desire should eventually lessen, shouldn’t it? After all this time he should be adapted to only getting a hit once every one-point-five months, but he isn’t. Somehow he just craves Jensen even more.
Jared sits there on his couch in the middle of his sparsely decorated living room, pinching the bridge of his nose to stave off a headache, for far too long. He knows that he should get up, fix something to eat, and maybe take a shower. He thinks that this will be one of those nights that he falls asleep to the sound of Jensen rambling in his ear from some far away place where it’s three hours earlier for him so he’s not even tired yet. It feels like that kind of night.
But still, Jared feels too tired to move. His eyes droop and he’s just on the precipice of sleep when there’s a knock on his door. His eyes snap open and he sits up, looking blearily in the direction of the sound. He’s still in all his clothes – pea coat, sidearm holster, button down, slacks, and boots. He blinks a few times and lets out a yawn as he stumbles across the apartment to answer the door.
He opens it and suddenly feels invigorated, because Jensen is staring at him with a radiant grin.
Jared is stunned. He knows that this visit wasn’t on the books, because Jared always counts down the days to Jensen’s arrival with a childlike intensity, whether he admits it or not. This is a surprise, plain and simple, and Jared isn’t usually one to go for surprises. This one, though. This one he likes.
He reaches out to grab Jensen by the hips and pull him into the apartment. Jensen’s hands go to Jared’s shoulders and he comes willingly, leaning in to press their mouths together before either of them utters a word.
For all of their problems, Jared cannot deny that the only time he ever feels completely whole are in these moments – these rare moments where he gets to hold Jensen in his arms and kiss that damned smirk right off of his face.
“What are you doing here?” Jared finally asks after their lips are swollen and their lungs are exhausted. By this time they’re on the couch, expensive suits getting rumpled and wrinkled by their actions. Jensen’s hip knocks into Jared’s sidearm and he scrunches his nose as he pushes him away so they can sit up.
“I bought you a present,” Jensen says with a little shrug, as if this is a perfectly acceptable reason to hop on a plane and fly across the country. Jared smirks as he takes off his jacket and then his sidearm, setting them both carefully on the table next to the sofa. To Jensen, that’s probably a perfectly acceptable reason.
“You flew to New York because you got me a present?” Jared asks with a cocked brow. Jensen cocks one right back.
“If you’d like, I can go back to California and drop it in the mail,” Jensen retorts. Jared chuckles and leans in to kiss Jensen’s temple while wrapping an arm tight around his waist. “That’s what I thought. So, anyway. I’ve always liked buying my significant others gifts. But you’re a little more difficult, what with your being stoic and mysterious and, you know, male. But I think you’ll like this.”
Jensen pulls a little black velvet box out of his pocket and Jared raises an eyebrow. Jensen doesn’t look nervous, but then again, he never does.
“Please tell me that isn’t an engagement ring,” Jared says easily. “I haven’t gotten a chance to get my dowry together.”
“Now wouldn’t you feel like an asshole if I actually were proposing?” Jensen says with a playful smirk as he sets the box in Jared’s hand. “Open it, sleuthalecki.”
Jared keeps one arm around Jensen and flicks the box open with his thumb. Nestled on a white, silky pillow is a pair of platinum cufflinks in the shape of a spade. Jared swallows hard and blinks.
“Now you can save the world in style,” Jensen says happily as he leans in to kiss the spot just below Jared’s ear. “Do you like them?”
“Wow, yeah.” Jared blinks again and slides his thumb over the smooth metal. It’s not often that he’s given a gift, and it’s obvious that Jensen put thought into these. They’ll match every suit he owns. He turns to kiss Jensen’s plush mouth and sets the box on the couch before reaching up to cup his cheek.
“Love them,” Jared says softly as his thumb traces Jensen’s bottom lip. “Love you.”
“I love you,” Jensen replies effortlessly, and Jared smiles. They don’t say the words very often, but again, it’s nice when they do.
Jared leans in for a kiss but Jensen turns his head to the side at the last second and he nearly faceplants into the sofa. Jensen lets out a hum and glances around Jared’s apartment.
“You know, this isn’t a bad place,” Jensen says thoughtfully. Jared raises an eyebrow and slides his hand up Jensen’s inner thigh. “But it’s no penthouse in Central Park West.”
“Yeah, that would be more your style,” Jared says with a snort. He opens his mouth against Jensen’s neck and sighs happily. “Sorry that you have to sacrifice some time in the lap of luxury for us to spend time together. Now will you take that silver spoon out of your mouth and kiss me?”
Jensen chuckles and turns his head to meet Jared’s lips in a soft kiss. Jared has never had this before. Sure, he’s kissed a lot of boys and bedded his fair share of partners, but he’s never been in a real relationship. He’s never sat on a sofa with someone and kissed them just to feel the softness of their lips.
“I take it you didn’t read the business section of the Times today,” Jensen mumbles against Jared’s lips. It’s such an odd thing to say in the middle of a kiss that Jared opens his eyes and pulls back a little. “What, you don’t have a Google alert set for my name? What kind of boyfriend are you?”
“What’s in the Times?” Jared asks as he reaches up to loosen the knot In Jensen’s tie. It looks like he left work and headed directly for his plane. He likes that he makes Jensen rush. “Did you guys make another billion dollars? Buy an island or a small country?”
“Hm, I’ll paraphrase the article,” Jensen says, kissing Jared again. “Ackles Industries announced today their plans to open a second branch of the highly successful real estate firm. Jensen Ackles, gorgeous heir to the Ackles Industries throne, is set to – “
“Gorgeous heir to the throne?” Jared interrupts. “That’s some paraphrasing.” Jensen glares at him and then continues to speak, his lips mere centimeters from Jared’s own.
“ – is set to run the new office, which will open in New York City early next month,” Jensen finishes, and it takes more time than Jared would care to admit for the words to sink in.
And when they finally do, Jared takes a moment to marvel over the warm ball of feeling in his chest. It feels a lot like hope, which is something he had long ago thought lost forever.
“Are you telling me that you’re moving to New York?” Jared asks incredulously. “Jensen, really?”
“Correction. Moved to New York,” Jensen tells him with a cocky grin. He pulls a key ring with two shiny silver keys on it out of his pocket. He takes off one of the keys and places it in Jared’s hand. “I signed the papers on my luxurious penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park this morning. This silver spoon ain’t going anywhere, baby.”
“You’ve been in New York all day?” Jared asks. It isn’t the most important thing he wants to say right now, but that’s apparently all that wants to come out. He stares down at the key in his hand with wide eyes as his heart hammers away in his chest.
“Yes. But you can’t get mad. I brought you platinum cufflinks,” Jensen grins. He slides his manicured fingers into Jared’s hair and looks him in the eye. “I was doing boring business stuff all day. Getting a tour of the new offices, meeting new employees, signing the papers for my new apartment. Stuff like that. But I couldn’t wait until it was all over so I could get to the greatest amenity that the Big Apple has to offer. I wanted to surprise you.”
“Well, uh, you did.” Jared replies. He starts to laugh because if he doesn’t, it’s possible that he might cry. “You’re going to live here. I’m going to get to see you every day?”
“And then some,” Jensen tells him happily. Jared’s happy grin morphs into a smug smile and Jensen raises an eyebrow. “Oh, no. Don’t act like this is all because of you. I wasn’t sitting up in my tower pining away for you. An opportunity arose that just so happened to solve all of my problems, so I grabbed at it.”
“Right.” Jared chuckles and takes Jensen’s tie off before popping open a button or two on his shirt. “Are you going to miss home?”
“That’s not home anymore,” Jensen says flippantly. “Hollywood and I have ended our tumultuous affair. After nearly thirty years together – which, ugh, don’t remind me – we’ve parted ways. I, uh, began to find living in a fishbowl a bit stifling.”
“I know what you mean,” Jared says derisively. He looks at Jensen with liquid eyes, and he returns the expression for a few silent moments before he blinks.
“Well, all my things are on a truck somewhere in that vast nothingness between California and here, so I’m hoping I can crash with you,” Jensen tells him. He clasps his hands together and places them under his chin, pouting and batting his eyelashes. Jared cracks up laughing, and wow, it’s good to laugh.
“If you can stand sleeping without silk sheets for a night,” Jared teases. Jensen rolls his eyes and pushes Jared down onto the sofa before crawling on top of him. They’ll get up and take off their clothes after awhile, but this works for now.
“I do have to go back to L.A. in a few weeks,” Jensen mumbles against Jared’s neck. “I’m hoping that you’ll come with me.”
“What for?” Jared asks. He can feel Jensen swallow and his fingers start to pluck distractedly at the buttons on Jared’s shirt.
“There’s an awards ceremony being held for the scholarship that they set up in Sandy’s name, and I’d like to be there,” Jensen says quietly. “They’re giving this gorgeous, brilliant girl from Riverside a full ride to Stanford. I think that Sandy would have liked that.”
“She would have,” Jared agrees, fingertips calmly threading through Jensen’s soft, short hair. “And yeah, I’ll go with you.”
“She always wanted this for us, you know,” Jensen admits thickly. “Always used to call me an idiot for letting you go. I never admitted that she was right. I wish she was here so I could tell her how happy I am right now.”
Jared swallows hard and kisses the top of Jensen’s head. Jared is still sad that Sandy is gone, but he had been missing her for over a decade. He knows how much Jensen still aches from her loss.
“I think she knows,” Jared says softly. He wraps his arms around Jensen and squeezes. “She always did know everything.”
Jensen cracks up at that, fingers curling into Jared’s shirt as he nods. “Yeah,” he replies. “She did. Let’s go to bed, okay? We have a long day of you teaching me how to be a New Yorker tomorrow.”
“Oh we do, do we?” Jared retorts. “Curse a lot. Pick up smoking. Forget all the manners your mother ever taught you.”
“Or you could quit smoking,” Jensen counters as he gets up off of Jared and stands up. Jared rolls his eyes as Jensen drags him off of the sofa. He goes through his nightly process of locking the door and turning off all the lights.
Jensen wanders over to the big bay window and pulls the curtains back. Jared may not have a million dollar view, but it’s still a nice sight. Jensen puts his hand on his hip and looks out at his new surroundings, this new place that he’s going to live in.
Jared picks up the cufflinks and his key to a penthouse in the sky, tiny silver things that he’s sure he’ll be seeing a lot more of now that Jensen is here permanently. Jared swallows hard as that word flits through his mind. Permanently.
He slips the cufflinks and keys into his pocket so he can put them someplace safer and then walks up behind Jensen. He wraps one arm loosely around Jensen’s waist and rests his chin on his shoulder. Jensen leans back against him, soft and easy, like they’ve been doing this forever rather than for just a few disjointed months.
Jared has always found the Manhattan skyline to be cruelly attractive, harsh and unforgiving. Jared has always seen the city as this cold, industrial thing with too many holes for scum to hide in. But that could just be the cynical private eye in him. Sometimes it’s hard for him to see the beauty in anything after he’s been witness to so much heartbreak.
The flat, endless metropolis laid out in front of them is certainly different than the bright, ever-changing Los Angeles landscape. There are no dips and valleys, no hills dotted with mansions for people to look up at and dream about. There are no lush patches of nature cutting swaths through the city, no sandy beaches or stars on the sidewalk.
New York is a lot different than Los Angeles, and Jared turns his head to try to catch a glimpse of Jensen’s face. He’s smiling a soft, pleased smile. He looks happy, peaceful even, and he relaxes even further into Jared’s embrace. Jared looks out at the city again, at all the twinkling lights and the golden crescent moon hanging low in the indigo blue sky, and tries to see it through Jensen’s eyes.
“Welcome home,” Jared whispers as he realizes that yeah, it’s sort of beautiful.
Better than that, it finally feels like home.
[soundtrack & notes.]