He takes two full days just to try and wrap his head around it all. Jared likes guys. Big, hulking, manly-man Jared dresses up like a girl sometimes just for kicks. Jared, Jensen's best friend Jared, was in love with him the whole time. And Jensen never noticed any of it.
Jensen knows there must have been a world of hints for him to miss. He remembers a day Jared was goofing off on set—all the way back when they were shooting Season One—when he ran off in the middle of getting his make-up done, when his hair was still tied up in buns, and pranced around like a girl for half an hour before Kim told him to get his ass back to Shannon. They'd taken pictures, dubbed him Jaredina, and had some good laughs about it. But Jared had been such a clown about the whole thing, like he was about everything, Jensen never would have thought to take it seriously. He remembers, too, the way Jared never could keep his hands to himself on the red carpet. Always had to hug or try climbing Jensen like a tree to keep himself grounded. Jensen craved the contact just as much as Jared did once the cameras were in his face. That's just how they were. Both of them. And, wow, he really does not want to think about what that might mean.
Those incidents aren't the answer. At least Jensen doesn't think so. That was Jared being his overstated, obnoxious self. Jensen knows there had to be subtler, more honest glimpses into this part of Jared that he simply didn't look hard enough to see, but he can't recover them now. At the end of two days, he's still stumped.
He gives up on trying to convince himself it's not surprising on the third day and decides the best he can do is try to understand. He doesn't think he'll ever be completely used to it, but that doesn't mean he can't accept it, move on, and get back to trying to salvage his and Jared's friendship.
So, on day three, Jensen calls Jared. A lot. He doesn't really expect an answer, not after all the trouble Jared's gone through to put Jensen out of his life. But he's persistent enough to call 30+ times in a row, and, knowing Jared, he's at the very least really getting on the guy's nerves.
He gets his confirmation somewhere around call number 36, when his phone vibrates with a text message.
Stop calling me, it says.
Not a chance. Answer your phone, then.
Nothing. Nothing for so long, Jensen finally lets himself get desperate. I really need to talk to you.
The little blip of hope he got from Jared’s text doesn't last for long. He calls 14 more times and gets no answer, until finally Jensen gives up, turns the TV on and resigns himself to spending his last night in Vancouver licking his wounds. He didn't get either of the things he came for. All he got was a steaming pile of confusion and no one to help him figure it out.
There's a knock at the door. Jensen puts the TV on mute, confused because he didn't order room service and there's not really anything else it could be, unless Jensen's pity party actually managed to warrant a noise complaint.
He opens the door and finds Jared standing on the other side. Before he even gets the chance to ask, Jared raises two big, brown, greasy bags. "Delivery," he says.
"Well, don't look so surprised. You did call me a hundred million times in the last three hours." He stomps in like he owns the room and heads immediately for Jensen's couch. Jensen's so confused he just watches it happen, swinging the door shut behind Jared.
"What are you doing here, man?" he asks. "How did you even find out where I'm staying?"
Jared is already spreading containers of Chinese food out over the coffee table, taking up all of Jensen’s space. It reminds Jensen of better times, and it's cruel of Jared, giving him this much when he'll be out of reach again tomorrow. "Carlos can't keep a secret for shit, Jensen," Jared informs him as he sucks the sauce from one of the freshly opened containers off his thumb. "You can't tell him anything."
"Okay," Jensen says. "I'll try to remember that next time."
Jared smiles and pats the couch next to him. "Come. Sit."
"Is it from Hon's?"
"Where else?" Jared replies, grinning because he knows he's got Jensen.
Jensen shuffles forward and takes his place on the couch, eyeing the food Jared is spreading out. He still knows Jensen's order, down to the spring rolls they'll be fighting over in half an hour. He still knows almost everything there is to know about Jensen, and Jensen feels like he's a stranger.
"What's wrong? Dig in." Jared slides Jensen's orange chicken across the table and gives him an encouraging look.
Jensen picks up the container and a fork and pokes at the chicken before sighing and setting it back down. "Jared, you can't think after three years, and after everything you dropped on me on Monday, that you can show up with some Chinese food and it'll be just like old times."
"Obviously I don't," Jared says calmly. He digs around in his shrimp for a few seconds longer, then grudgingly looks up at Jensen. "I know I owe you some explanations. I figure you're leaving tomorrow. I can at least give you that much and then we can go our separate ways. But I didn't want to do it over the phone. I thought, I don't know. Maybe this would move it along a little. Make things as easy as possible on both of us."
Jensen nods, taking up his chicken again and trying a bite. Still as disgustingly delicious as ever. "You came to explain, so explain."
Jared laughs under his breath. "Where do you want me to start?"
"Wherever," Jensen replies. "Anything is a step above completely in the dark."
"Can I start with 'I'm sorry'?"
"Not that," Jensen says. "I don't want to hear that."
"Jensen." Jared sounds exasperated, and they haven't even started yet.
"Don't act like I'm the one being unreasonable, Jay," Jensen tells him sharply. "Don't you dare."
"Alright." Jared raises his hands, chopsticks included, in a placating gesture. "You're calling the shots. Just tell me what you want to know."
"How long what?" Jared asks, huffing a laugh. "How long have I been in love with you? How long have I been a drag queen? Gonna have to be more specific than that."
"How about all of it?"
"I've been doing drag since high school. At the Cobalt since maybe since Season 2? I wasn't regular there until after the show ended. I stopped while I was with Genevieve, but started up again pretty soon after the divorce." Jared swallows and gives Jensen a regretful look. "And I've lost track of when I fell in love with you. It kind of feels like always."
"You did drag in high school?" Jensen asks. "So you knew the whole time we were friends?"
Jared nods. "By the time we were close enough for me to risk telling you, I was in pretty deep. You gotta understand, Jensen, I didn't want to make you feel uncomfortable around me. It would've been too easy to guess how I felt about you once you knew."
Jensen shakes his head. "Unbelievable," he mutters.
"You're not going to be happy with anything I tell you," Jared says. "I get that."
"Oh, really? You get why maybe it bothered me a little that you just decided to go cold turkey on our friendship the first second you could? Well, good job, Sherlock. Bet that was a hard one to figure out."
"You're such an infant when you're angry," Jared says in a warm voice that makes Jensen get even more annoyed until he looks up and sees the fond way Jared's watching him. "It's very cute."
"Fuck off, Jared." He shifts, hoping to look a little less like he’s pouting. "How do you even find out you like doing drag that young?"
Jared smiles, looking off into space nostalgically. "I was at a Halloween party, I think it was junior year, dressed up as a cheerleader. Blonde wig, little skirt, pompoms: the works. Not with any intent, it just seemed like a funny thing to do. And some drunk, handsy, asshole football player came up behind me, grabbed my ass and told me I was cute, because he thought I was a girl. I didn't look like this back then, of course, I was just a scrawny, awkward kid. I could hardly get a boy's attention most of the time, and here was this gorgeous, albeit douchey, guy coming up to talk to me like I was special. A good girl would have slapped him and told him he was a pig, but I was a horny kid and I hadn’t even realized how much I wanted to pass until I did it."
"Don't tell me that worked on you."
Jared grins. "I've done lower things for male attention. Anyway, I wanted to suck his dick, so I sucked it. He told me I was a good little slut and I'd never been so turned on in my life."
Jensen shifts uneasily, and Jared shakes his head like he's trying to clear it. "Sorry," he says with a slight blush. "Too much information?"
"No," Jensen says, wishing the idea of Jared in a short skirt, sucking dick for some stranger, made him feel the way he thinks it should, like a horrified big brother, instead of getting his blood pumping. "Just…interesting."
"Interesting?" Jared says. "Like, 'I wanna put you in a test tube and study you for science' interesting?"
Jensen rolls his eyes as he chuckles. "So it's not just fun to you? You really—you really wanna be a girl?"
"A woman," Jared corrects, his expression is slightly wounded for the second before he looks down and Jensen can't see it anymore. "I don't want to be. It's not about wanting. Sometimes I just am."
"You…I'm sorry, Jared, I don't get that."
"I'm not asking you to," he says.
"I want to. I want to be a good friend to you. You have to give me the chance, though. I'm trying."
"Some days I wake up and I'm Jared and some days I'm someone else. Someone who likes boas and dresses and high heels and feeling less like an ogre than a princess. And on those days it's really pretty tough to go on pretending to be Jared." Jared scrubs a hand over his mouth, shrugging slightly as he looks up. "Does that make you uncomfortable?"
Yes, but not in the way Jared seems to expect. Somehow Jared being female thrills him; it doesn't just make him feel sexual excitement, but something else too. He can't put a name on it. He doesn't even want to acknowledge it's there. "No," he lies.
Jared relaxes some, nodding as he sits back. "I always enjoyed your company, Jensen. Always. But it was so hard for that girl, not being able to close the gap and kiss you. It’s hard enough for me. Sitting on this couch right now is torture, but on the days I had to keep her locked up, too? It was draining, Jensen. It was too much. I had to get away from it."
"You didn't have to hide her from me. You never should have hidden anything from me."
"That's so easy to say when it's not your problem," he answers, his voice icier than Jensen thinks he's ever heard it.
"Are you an idiot?" Jensen asks, meeting Jared's chill with his own. "Do you think I had to be in love with you to love you? Do you think for one moment that just because I didn't want to fuck you you couldn't break my heart? Because you broke it, Jared. In about a hundred different places, and I could kill you for sitting there telling me it's not my problem."
"I'm sorry, Jen. I wish there'd been another way. It was self-preservation. It was the only thing I could do."
Jensen stares at the food on the table, all growing cold because Jensen's got no appetite at this point. "Did it work, at least?"
"Did what work?"
"Cutting me out. Did it work? Are you happy and free of me? Doesn't really sound like it." Jensen's voice rises. "Because if it did, then we should be able to work together. We can be friends again. But what I'm hearing from you is—"
"No, it obviously didn't work," Jared barks, his words nearly a scream. He keeps his eyes trained on the muted TV screen and his voice lowers once he's shut Jensen up. "Not even a little bit. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
Jensen stands abruptly, kicking the coffee table just for being near him. Jared starts at the sound, and he stares up with wide eyes. "Jense—?"
"Fuck you, Jared. Fuck you so hard," he says, shaking with all the anger suddenly fighting to break out of him. He wants to lash out at Jared, give him a good solid punch. A hit to the jaw that will splinter him, hurt maybe a fraction as much as he's hurt Jensen. "For no reason. No fucking reason. You did that to me and it didn't even work?"
"I had to try," Jared pleads, as if that puny little sentence is going to fix what he did. "It was easier to pretend it was working before you came back."
"I needed you," Jensen says, his voice breaking. "Jared, do you have any idea how much I needed you? When Danneel and I—"
"I know," Jared says quietly. "I know what happened with you and Danneel."
"Yeah? Do you know why?" Jensen's hands curl into fists. "Because if you knew and you still wouldn't talk to me…I'm done. I'll leave tomorrow, and you can rest assured you'll never have to see me again."
Jared keeps his head bowed so Jensen can't see his expression. He reaches out for a napkin and begins wiping invisible stains off the coffee table, as if that's gonna distract either of them right now. "I didn't let myself listen to your voicemails."
"We couldn't have a baby, Jared," Jensen tells him coolly. "We couldn't. We tried so hard for years, and it tore us apart."
Jared's head snaps up sharply, and he meets Jensen's eyes. How he can meet Jensen's eyes right now, Jensen isn't sure, but he's a lot more satisfied than he should be to see Jared's almost crying. "Jen, I didn't know. I'm so sorry. Oh god." He puts a hand over his mouth. "Jensen, I'm so, so sorry."
Jensen's body slumps down onto the couch, feeling the anger start to drain. He's too fucking tired of carrying this around to stay mad now that he finally has someone to talk to. "She was fine." He buries his face in his hands. "They did all these tests and she was fine. So it had to be me, right? There was something wrong with me."
"No," Jared says. Jensen doesn't look up to see him moving closer, just feels the side of Jared's body as it settles next to him. The cushions shift and then a big warm hand moves down his spine. "There's nothing wrong with you, Jensen. It wasn't your fault."
Jensen shakes his head. He feels a sob trying to escape and chokes it down. "I needed you to tell me that a year ago, man. Where the fuck were you a year ago?"
Jared doesn't answer. He's apparently finally done trying to defend himself. He tugs Jensen in, and Jensen can't fight the urge to rest his face against his best friend's chest and finally let himself cry.
"I'm not a real man," Jensen says. "I'm not good for anything."
"Shh." Jared's big hand strokes over the back of Jensen's head. "Shh, Jensen. Of course you are."
Jensen shakes his head. "All we wanted was a baby. I couldn't even give her—"
Jensen hears the kiss Jared presses to the top of his head more than he feels it, but the weight of Jared's cheek resting against him as he pulls Jensen in tighter makes him shut up, swallow his words, and let everything out without having to say it.
It's a long time before Jensen pulls back, wiping at his eyes with his hand. He's not embarrassed for crying—Jared's the only person he's ever felt comfortable being this vulnerable in front of. Even Danneel, he'd always tried to stay strong for her. He feels better now, lighter, but hollow and exhausted, like Jared just wrung him out and left the last three years in a puddle on the floor.
"You know," Jared says, distracted, almost like he's talking to himself. He brushes the tips of his fingers on Jensen's cheek and smiles faintly. "When I first met you, I thought that if I could make a man like you want me, I'd feel like a real woman. You were everything a man is supposed to be. Don't ever let yourself believe otherwise."
"Not that I don't appreciate it," Jensen says as playfully as he can manage, "but you're talking in past tense."
Jared gives him a weary smile. "Well, one day I woke up and realized you were the only man who could do that for me, but that's beside the point."
Jensen wipes at his eyes, and Jared watches with a resigned look on his face.
"I can't make things up to you, Jensen. I know I can't. There's no way to say sorry enough times to change what I did."
"I don't care," Jensen replies. "I didn't come to Vancouver to hear you apologize. I don't want to fight. Shit, I was trying to avoid it. Even if I should be angry. I don't want to be angry with you. I used to try to make myself feel it, as if hating you would change how much it hurt not to have you. But I couldn't, and it wouldn't help anyway. I just want to know you'll never push me away again. That you'll be there the next time I need you."
Jared hangs his head sadly. "I can't make that promise. I can't be that for you," he says. "You're so good, Jensen. You're so good to me, and I know it's not fair. But after you leave tomorrow, find someone who deserves you and depend on them. I'm not that person."
The idea of going home tomorrow, back to where it's lonely, and leaving Jared up here missing him is like an arrow, fast and sharp through his chest. But Jensen doesn't know what else he can say. All he can think to do is eat some crappy takeout with his friend and relish the company for the stunted time he still has it.
So he unmutes the TV and hands Jared the remote, and thank God for small miracles, Jared gets what he's asking for.
It feels kind of…well, stupid. On the way here, flowers had seemed like a fairly obvious gesture. Jared's performing, right? Technically. That's what you do when someone is in a show. It's how Jared's parents had greeted him when they'd come to see him in A Few Good Men all those years ago.
Now that he's standing in a half-empty gay bar, milling around by himself with a bouquet of roses for a guy who has solidly kicked his ass in at least 25 separate farting contests, it definitely feels stupid. Like a meaningless gesture—too much or not enough or just too easy to misread. Jensen doesn't even know what they mean, how is Jared or Anita or whoever comes out of that dressing room supposed to understand?
But Hallmark didn't exactly have an "I'm sorry you fell in love with me and didn't tell me you're a drag queen but can we still be friends?" card. They're really falling down on the job these days.
"Can I help you?"
The voice is sharp, coming from just a few inches to Jensen's right, and he starts when he hears it, wondering how the man was able to sneak up on him. Maybe he was too distracted staring down the hall at Jared's dressing room, hyper focusing so his friend doesn’t get a chance to slip past him.
It's the host of the show. Jensen knows his stage name is Marie, but he's not dressed up yet. He's still a middle-aged, pale man with dark bags under his eyes, a smudge of purple glitter on his cheek where he must have missed a spot washing it off. Jensen can only tell it's the same guy from his voice and the way his arms are crossed over his chest, face stony and unwelcoming. He'd looked at Jensen just like this last Sunday, right before Jensen had talked to Anita and figured out what was going on.
"I'm just waiting to see—"
The man, whatever his real name is, doesn't even let him finish. "Why don't you go home already, huh?"
Jensen shakes his head, raising the flowers as if they'll explain something.
"The show isn't for hours," he continues. "You don't belong here."
"Please," Jensen says. "Can't you just tell Jared I'm here? He'll come out if—"
"He knows you're here," the man replies, though his voice softens some as he delivers the blow. "He doesn't want to see you."
"I have to talk to him," Jensen insists.
The host looks at Jensen's face for a long few seconds, then throws a glance over his shoulder, down the hall to where the dressing rooms are. He turns back, shaking his head just a bit. "Sweetheart, you don't want to do this."
Jensen lets out a bitter laugh. This guy doesn’t even know him, and Jensen's not bothering anyone. He just wants a damn chance to see his friend. "I'm not your sweetheart and don't tell me what I want," he snaps. "Look, I don't know what you think I'm going to do but—"
"You've already done it," he says. "I know the history between you two. And I'm not trying to be a bitch here, I know you won't hurt him on purpose. But I also know what he's been like ever since you two stopped working together. You don't. You're harming him just by being in this city. Go home if you really care about him."
Jensen feels his eyebrows drawing together. "What are you even talking about?"
The guy sighs, checking the hallway behind him again to make sure they're alone. He leans closer, his voice lowering so only Jensen can hear. "Straight boys. That's Anita's poison. Straight boys who wander in here by accident, because they're confused or bored or just looking for anything they can get. Boys who chew her up and spit her out in the morning, who are embarrassed and disgusted and just trying her on to see if she fits. Two drinks and she goes home with them, and she comes back fucked up the next day for me to fix. You know why she chooses them?"
Jensen swallows hard, casting his eyes to the ground. "Because of me," he says quietly, remembering just how pointedly Jared had dismissed him last week for the exact opposite reason.
"Anita or Jared—either way, he could have anyone he wants in this whole damn place. He chooses the ones who make him feel cheap because they remind him of you. Does that sound like healthy behavior?"
Jensen shakes his head, then looks up to meet the man's eyes. "I never did that to him. Her. Whatever." He rubs his free hand over his mouth and decides fuck it. Jensen is not above begging. "I'm not going to leave before you let me by. I lost him once already. I'm not letting him hide from me anymore."
"Well, you're one stubborn sonofabitch, I'll give you that." He laughs and Jensen huffs a little amused breath, but he crosses in front of Jensen, leaning in the hallway. Blocking Jensen's path. "I'm still not letting you see him. You're not the only friend he's got, you know."
"Zach, it's okay."
Jensen and the guy, Zach apparently, both freeze when they hear Jared's voice. Jensen looks up into the hallway and Zach turns around immediately. Jared is only half Anita, wig and dress not on yet, but he's started his make-up and the satin robe tied around his waist is a pale pink. Decidedly feminine.
One week later, the sight still makes Jensen feel dazed and sluggish.
"It's okay," Jared says again, his voice soft and resigned. He smiles dimly at Zach. "Jensen can come in."
Jensen can't help giving Zach a smug look as he shoulders past, following Jared down three doors to the one that has a handwritten log of who gets it on what days, Anita's name scrawled in under Sunday in Jared's messy print.
Jared signals for him to close the door behind him, and then he turns, bracing his arms on the vanity along the wall as he presses his back into it. Jensen looks around the room—raspberry-colored velvet couch, vanity with lights all around it, wigs and boas propped on every flat surface. It's not different from most of the dressing rooms Jensen's seen in his life, just a little campier.
"What are you doing here, Jen?" Jared asks, and Jensen stops gawking at the dressing room, focusing his attention on Jared instead.
He holds his arm out awkwardly, yellow and white roses extended toward Jared. "I brought you these," he says.
Jared hesitates for a moment before reaching out to take them. He brings them to his face, smelling them for a moment before he starts to poke the petals lightly. "Don't people usually give flowers at the end of the show?"
Jensen laughs. "Well, I was early. Figured I might as well get them off my hands."
It's still a little rocky, but they've said more than six words and aren’t fighting yet. Jensen just loves low standards.
"They're lovely," Jared finally admits. "Thank you, Jensen."
"Hey, no problem. I know you're gonna put on a good show, so."
Jared's smile is too tight, and it falls the moment he turns his back on Jensen. Jensen looks away from the mirror. He still can't stand to see Jared that wounded, even after how much Jared has hurt him.
"I thought you were only going to be in town a few days," he says casually. He has a vase on the edge of the vanity and he drops the bouquet in.
"Extended the trip a week. No rush, you know? I don't even have a leading man cast, so it's not like we're going to start filming soon."
Jared sits down at the stool in front of the mirror and picks up a make-up brush. There's already powder on it, like Jared paused in the middle of something to come get him. Maybe he was worried Zach was only moments from clawing out Jensen's eyes. The thought had crossed Jensen's mind a few times.
"Shouldn't you be in L.A., then? Scouting one out?"
"I've kind of got my heart set on someone." Jensen glances over to the coffee table in front of the couch and can't contain his smirk when he spots the open pages. "I see you've been reading the script."
Jared stops applying his blush for a moment before continuing as if Jensen didn’t say anything.
"Do you like it?" he pushes. "It's a good role, right?"
"It's an amazing role," Jared concedes. "And a pretty decent script."
Jensen steps forward, just enough so Jared can see him in the mirror's reflection. "Have you maybe thought about changing your mind, then?"
Jared sighs, shaking his head. He's got a big smile on his face all of a sudden, the first genuine one Jensen's seen from his friend since Anita was on stage a week ago. "You always were pretty shitty at taking no for an answer."
"You know it," he replies. "You might as well say yes, save us both a lot of trouble."
Jared sets his brush aside, and Jensen thinks he's done with his make-up until he grabs a tube of thick, pink liquid lipstick and starts to apply it. There's a hot pull low in Jensen's belly when Jared pulls it away, smacks his lips together. They're bright and wet in the mirror.
The floor is a good thing to look at right now.
"Jensen, we talked about this."
"You worked with me for ten years. Non-stop for ten years. You can't do three months for a movie?"
Jared reaches out, swiping one of his thumbs over the edge of a yellow rose petal. "I don't want to fight with you. Please don't make me. Just go home."
"Everyone here keeps telling me to do that," Jensen says, trying to keep his voice light. "And then back home they all tell me I need to go on vacation. I'm starting to suspect my company's not as enjoyable as I thought it was."
"It's plenty enjoyable, Jen. It's too enjoyable." Jared stands, brushing a hair away from his eyes, and turns to face Jensen. It catches Jensen off guard, seeing him directly. Seeing her directly. She's transformed somehow. It's not like Anita, not so obviously an illusion. It's not a performance. It's just a woman, but one he can see his best friend in as clear as anything. That same stupid strand of hair still pops up on the right side, the one Jeannie always used to say she was gonna cut off.
Jensen steps forward without even realizing he's doing it, tries to tuck it back behind her ear. Jared's breath catches. She leans into the touch like it’s instinct.
"Fuck," Jensen says, eyes scanning over her face, drinking her in. "You're beautiful."
Jared pulls away then, ducking her head. "Please stop saying that to me."
He laughs, letting his hand fall limply to his side. "It's not an insult where I come from."
"Even if you're not mocking me like I thought you were. It's not true, I know that. I don't need you to feel sorry for me."
Jensen shakes his head. "You're dead set on thinking the worst of me, huh?"
Jared looks up at him, a little sorry, but not nearly enough to apologize. "I kind of have to," she says. "It's easier when you're not around."
"Tough shit," Jensen tells her, grinning. "You're stuck with me for at least another couple of days."
Jared rolls her eyes, turning her back to Jensen. She lowers her robe a little, and Jensen feels his cheeks burn hot, even though he's seen Jared in every state of undress imaginable. Something about the dainty robe makes him feel like he shouldn't be looking.
Instead of the broad expanse of tan flesh he's expecting, Jensen is greeted by a black and red corset unlaced around her middle. She lets the robe rest on her waist and smiles at Jensen over her shoulder, fidgeting with the hooks on the side of the corset. "If you're gonna be in here, you might as well be useful. I do have a show in an hour."
Jensen nods, trying not to be too obvious as he looks over the feminine curves the corset gives her, the modest rise of her breasts in a bodice that is straining trying to hold the rest of her. "What, uh," Jensen licks his lips, "what do you want me to do?"
"Lace me up," she tells him, like she's asking him to run to the store for some eggs. Like she has no fucking idea what she's doing to Jensen.
He takes the ends of the ribbon running through the back and starts to tie them together, and Jared laughs, reaching behind herself to stop Jensen's hands.
"You have to tighten it first, dumbass." Jensen hears the fondness in the insult and almost says something stupid in his excitement. Almost points it out. Jared hasn't talked to him like that since they filmed their last episode together.
"How tight do you want it?"
"As much as it'll go. Really pull at it. Not easy to get the zippers up on those gowns."
He tugs, pausing to see if Jared wants him to pull it tighter. She nods encouragingly, and he sees it in the mirror, holds her eyes as he moves down, tugging again. She keeps his gaze, her own hazel darkening, and Jensen thinks probably it's a little weird that helping a woman put her clothes on is making him this hot.
"Tell me when to stop," he says, about three holes away from the bottom. "If it's too tight. I won't know, you have to tell me."
Her lips curve up at the edges, and her eyes go soft. "I know, Jen. I know you won't hurt me. Keep going. Nice and tight. I can take it."
"How do you breathe?" he asks, reaching the bottom. Tying the nicest bow he can manage before Jared swats him away so she can do that part on her own, make the loops elegant instead of the floppy bunny ears Jensen had been in the middle of.
"I like the way it feels," she admits, standing up and pacing a few steps to try out the fit. "It makes me feel pretty." She lets out a quiet, self-deprecating laugh and then adds, as if she's just trying to beat Jensen to saying it, "I know I'm not. It just feels that way."
Jensen frowns. "Why are you so hard on yourself?"
Jared looks at him. Opens her mouth. Doesn't say a word before she closes it, shaking her head as she turns away and pulls her robe back up to her shoulders. Her body is a perfect hourglass now as she ties the sash around the corset. "Which dress do you like best?"
She runs her hands over a long, bubblegum pink dress with rhinestones crawling up the length of it in a shimmering wave and a green one with puffy sleeves that will probably stop at her knees. Jensen isn't sure how to tell her not to do either, that they're both too much. She's perfect just like this, casual and real and not for anyone but Jensen to look at.
"Pink," he says.
She rises to her tiptoes, about to pull the dress down from the hanger she's propped it on top of her dresser with, and Jensen comes up behind her, stopping her wrist by wrapping his own hand around it.
"Not yet," he whispers into her ear and he feels her freeze. "Let me see you."
Jared's breath is shaky and quiet. She doesn't move an inch, like she's scared moving will spook Jensen. He puts his other hand on her hip, pressing in slowly so she can stop him if she wants to. Her breath quickens at the touch.
"Jensen," she says, voice hushed. "Why are you doing this?"
"I didn't know," he tells her, turning her carefully. He tips her chin down with his thumb. "I'm so sorry I didn't know."
He's been beating himself up over it for days. How do you live with a guy and not notice him sneaking out once a week dressed like a drag queen? Jensen never even suspected Jared was gay. He was probably fucking guys while Jensen was just a few rooms over. How the hell did he miss that?
He'd felt stupid and tricked but this isn't about that. This is about it taking Jared dressed up and sparkling and kissing him for Jensen to realize who and what he really wanted. God, that ache Jensen's been mourning for the last three years—it's been there so much longer than he realized. It's been there since the first time Jared wanted him and didn't get to act on it.
"Can I kiss you?" Jensen asks.
Jared doesn’t give him an answer. Instead there's a big hand wrapped around the back of his neck, pulling him down so fast and rough he probably wouldn't be able to fight it if he wanted to. He gets a hint of watermelon and realizes Jared's going to have to do her make-up all over again. He licks the sticky taste off Jared's bottom lip, not feeling particularly sorry.
Jared pulls away from the kiss, eyes so dark Jensen wants to make a demon joke, but he doesn’t get a chance before she's backing him up. His ass presses against the couch rear and he opens his mouth to ask, but she shuts him up with another open-mouthed kiss.
"Just let me," she mumbles, dropping to her knees.
Jensen swallows hard, looking down at her as she fusses with his jeans, too eager to work at them rationally. He's already starting to get hard by the time she finally manages to open them and shove his underwear down to his ankles.
She doesn't hesitate. Jensen's only ever seen this much enthusiasm in porn, and it turns him on so much he nearly whimpers, but he stops himself and pulls her back before she can get her mouth on him.
She looks up, clearly expecting him to have changed his mind.
"What—uh, what do you want me to call you? Anita?" Jensen realizes only after asking how stupid the question was. He worries he hurt her, or that he should know the answer already, just as instinctively as he should have known who Jared really was.
She sits back on her feet, her right hand reaching up. Three fingers and a thumb find his thigh, and she cups it as if she were turning a face toward her. "I don't care," she answers, though she doesn't sound like someone who doesn't care. "Call me what you want. You can pretend I'm whoever you want. I don't care. Just let me have you this once."
Jensen stops her again before she can move forward. "What do you want me to call you?"
She keeps her eyes trained on the slow, soft motion of her touch as it moves down Jensen's leg and she answers in a whisper, "You used to call me Jay sometimes. You were the only one who ever did that." She lifts her face up to see Jensen's and gives him a weak smile. "I used to love it. It was like you knew…"
She casts her eyes to the ground and shakes her head, as if to dismiss the rest of the thought, but that's okay. Jensen doesn't need to hear it. He understands. He finally understands.
"Jay," he says, reaching down to catch her chin and make her look up at him again.
She looks shattered and Jensen wants to hate himself, but she looks so happy too. Her smile is pained, he knows that, but it's wide and bright. Jay is a goddess when she smiles.
"Jay," he says again, just because she seems to like hearing it, and as she presses a kiss to the head of his dick, Jensen thinks Jay could be his girl.
Jensen's legs feel like putty by the time she's done with him. It's been a long time since he had any kind of sex, since Danneel and not often by the end of that, and that definitely has something to do with it. But it's mostly Jay—Jared, Anita—this whole fucking thing and what it means and what she does to him and the way she looked like it was a blessing as she swallowed him down.
He hasn't had a single drink, but he sways his way back out into the club and gives Carlos a boozy grin as he sits down anyway.
Carlos looks him over once, assessing the situation with an apologetic shake of his head. "Robbie makes a deadly Long Island," he says. "I would have warned if I knew you were into girly drinks."
"Not drunk," Jensen says, raising a hand to summon one of the waitresses. "Yet."
"Don't tell me you took something from one of the tweekers by the bathroom," Carlos jokes. "You're way too old and way too straight for that shit."
"What if I'm not?" Jensen asks. Carlos gives him a look, and Jensen chuckles, shaking his head. "Not the drugs, I mean. Just…"
The waitress stops by and takes their orders, and Jensen uses the time to try and figure out what he even wants to say. He is straight. He's always been; it was never a question for him. But Jared just pushed buttons Jensen didn't even know he had.
"If I weren't straight, how would I know that?"
"Aren't you a little too old for this crisis to be happening now? Jesus, can't even take a guy to a drag ball these days without—" Carlos's eyes widen, and he stares at Jensen in shock. "Oh, you dog. You didn't."
Jensen can feel his cheeks flushing, but he can't swallow his smile. He can't contain how good he feels, happy for the first time in so goddamn long because he's got a girl and his best friend again all in one lightning flash, and he sort of wants to climb up on the stage and announce it to every person in the Cobalt.
Their drinks arrive, and Jensen takes a sip from his beer to sober himself before replying. "We…yeah."
"Dios mio," Carlos mutters. "What did I do? Oh god, Jensen, I never should have brought you here. This is a disaster."
Jensen laughs, waving a dismissive hand in Carlos's general direction. "Calm down, why would it be a disaster?"
"He's in love with you, Jensen. You do know that, right?"
His smile grows even wider. Lovable is not something Jensen honestly ever expected to be again. "He is. So what?"
"So you're straight?"
Jensen shrugs. He's been trying to reason himself through this since Jared came over on Thursday, and maybe he's not quite in control of what the hell he's feeling or what it means, but for Jared—Jay—he's willing to jump and hope the rest of it catches him before he hits the floor. "I thought I was a week ago, but then a week ago I also thought Jared was straight and pretty butch, and yet tonight he wore a dress and got on his knees for me and I loved it. I'm thinking maybe things can change."
Carlos shakes his head, about to say something, and Jensen can't decide if he's more hurt or angry. Zach was one thing—that guy doesn't know Jensen, doesn't know the first thing about him or his relationship with Jared. But Carlos was there for Supernatural, those 10 years he and Jared had. Maybe he wasn't all that close to them most of the time, but Jensen was sort of hoping it would be apparent to him.
"Why can't it work? What's so impossible about it?" Jensen wipes perspiration off the bottle in front of him. "I feel so good. I haven't felt this way since my wife left me. I've been missing him and I've been missing Danneel—I feel like I could spend the rest of my life with Jay and never miss another damn thing."
"Jay?" Carlos asks.
Jensen just shrugs and looks down at his bottle. "I've loved him for thirteen years. Why's it so impossible to believe I can love him a new way if I never stopped loving him?"
Carlos sits quietly, his fingers drumming on the table, until finally he leans forward, smiling softly. "Ah, call me a sucker, but I think it's kind of wonderful."
A microphone crackles loudly through the club and the lights flicker out. "Alright bitches, that's enough girl talk," Marie announces from the stage. She's dressed as a poodle this time. Jensen smiles to himself, wondering if this is something he could get used to.
He's not even a little bit surprised that Anita doesn't make an appearance in the club after the show. Jensen has finally figured out Jared's avoidance thing and figures it's going to fall on him to work around it.
"Just a minute," he hears from inside when he knocks on her dressing room door.
It's more like five before it finally opens, and Jensen feels a slight punch of disappointment when he sees what took so long. She’s cleaned all the make-up off her face and changed into a t shirt and jeans.
"Jay," Jensen says by way of greeting.
"Jared," Jared replies, holding the door open as he turns his back and walks further into the room. "Got no chance in hell of sending you away unless I'm Jared."
"No reason to send me away," Jensen tells him as he shuts the noise of the club out. "I just want to talk."
"Haven't we talked enough?" Jared asks.
Jensen barks out a laugh, thinking of Jay on her knees for him. "There wasn't much conversation going on."
Jared's cheeks redden just a little and he looks away. "Fine. Talk then."
"Why are you acting like this is a fight?" he asks, shocked at how cold Jared's tone is. Once upon a time, Jared was the opposite of confrontational. He used to be the one talking Jensen down. "Does this have to be a fight?"
"Well, it depends on what you want to talk about. But I'm thinking I already know. You want me to give you a good reason for what I did? I've given you the only reason I've got. There's nothing left to say. Forgive me or don't, but stop using how I feel for you against me. However you're trying to punish me, you've made your point. Just leave me alone, please."
"Jared," Jensen says. "I get it. You're forgiven. I'm not trying to punish you. But we kind of have some other issues between us now."
"What, because I sucked your dick?" Jared laughs. "I've done that for a lot of guys, and most of them spared me the trouble of having to psychoanalyze it."
"You're not gonna get rid of me that easily. Not by being cruel or petty or refusing to answer my phone calls. I'm not losing you again, so you can just skip right past all that, it's not helping."
Jared sits on the stool in front of his make-up table and turns his back on Jensen. Jensen's eyes follow Jared's fingers as they come up to play with the roses Jensen brought him, and he smiles at that. At least Jared's not pulling off pretending he doesn't care.
"Your parents brought me flowers just like those when—"
Jensen stops at the memory, suddenly floored by the realization that Jared's family hadn't just been kind to him. They'd been so open. They'd made him feel like he was one of them. Even at the time, even with how much he appreciated it, Jensen hadn't known what he'd done to make them like him so much.
"Do they know?" Jensen blurts out. "About you? That you're gay?"
"Whatever I am, yes they know," Jared says quietly. "I told them when I was a kid."
Jensen swallows and nods. "They thought we were…"
"They hoped." Jared laughs quietly. "Don't worry, Jensen. I let them know just how not gonna happen it was. Your unwavering heterosexuality remains untarnished."
He rolls his eyes. "First of all, that's not why I was asking. Second, do you really think that's such a big concern for me after what happened earlier?"
"You're not gay," Jared tells him. "You've never been even remotely gay. One blowjob does not change that."
Jensen pushes a hand through his hair. "You think I don't know I'm straight? You think I haven't tried telling myself that a million times since you kissed me last week? I'm not gay, but Jared, that's not changing the fact that I want—"
Jared slams a hand down on the vanity, his head shaking and his long hair with it. "Stop it. Stop it, stop it, stop it. Whatever this is—whatever late onset confusion or mid-life crisis this is, I can't be how you work it out, Jensen. I can't. I've been that before. So many times, for so many people, but I'll fucking lose it if I have to watch you remember that I'm not what you want. I'm sick of it already. Can't you just go to someone else?"
"If that's all you think this is, then why the hell did you kiss me?" Jensen steps away from Jared and paces toward the center of the room. "Why'd you offer to suck me off if you thought I was just going to change my mind?"
"Because I'm human, Jensen," Jared replies. "Because I'm only human. You came to my club. You came to my dressing room. You looked at me like I was one of those pretty girls you used to date. How much am I supposed to be able to fight? You think you're the only one who was lonely these last three years?"
"Then stop trying to chase me away. Stop assuming the worst of me. God, Jared, you don't make any sense. You've got over a decade of fair warning, I've got a week. I should be the one freaking out here. If I'm ready to go out on this limb, why the hell aren't you?"
"You'll be fine when it doesn't work for you. You'll have lost a week and maybe a little bit of your self-assurance. I'll be dead. That's why."
"You think I'm that cruel, Jared? You think I'm playing with you, that I would even think about touching you if I wasn't sure I want this? What did I ever do to make you distrust me like that?"
"It's been a week," he says, stressing the last word. "I don't care how sure you think you are now. You'll change your mind."
"Remember when I called you a coward?" Jensen's jaw clenches. "I was right. I didn't even realize how right I was."
"I'm scared," Jared concedes. "I'm man enough to admit that."
"You're going to ruin our only chance because you're too chickenshit to give me a shot." He finds Jared's eyes in the mirror. "All I want is to be happy again. And this last week, even with all the fighting, it's the only time I've been able to even conceive of being happy since I lost Danny. You think it's just some passing attraction that's making me say this? I don't have passing attractions anymore, Jared. I haven't wanted anything for over a year and suddenly all I can do is want. I want you. I want every stupid thing about you, even your god awful logic. I want to make you feel whole. Why won't you just let us try?"
Jared is quiet for a spell. "You're really serious about this?"
Jensen nods. "One date," he says. "Let me take you out once to prove it."
"Just once? Think I'm that easy, do ya?" Jared's voice is shakier than he probably intends, and the bravado is all gone once the words leave him. He looks down at his hands, then back up at Jensen hesitantly. "Maybe I oughta take what I can get while I've still got the chance."
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