The first time Jensen meets Dean Winchester, there isn’t an awful lot to him. The Winchester brothers are almost strangers to each other, certainly not comfortable, nothing like they become. It’s easy enough to fake that. Jensen doesn’t have a hard time being Jared’s big brother without knowing Jared at all. It’s called acting—it’s what Jensen does.
Jared and Jensen sit in a car all day, and that’s all they are: two guys, sitting in a car. That’s all the show is, too, at first. It’s fun, and it pays, so he’ll take it. He doesn’t mind acting opposite Jared. He likes Jared from the start…and that’s weird enough. Jensen doesn’t usually like anybody, let alone without a nice, long warming up period. If Jensen’s being honest, he’s not sure why he thought it would be a good idea to take a job that involves interacting with one other person all-day-everyday, but it’s not like he has offers flooding in from Hollywood.
In only a few episodes, Jensen thinks maybe he called it too soon. Supernatural starts transforming instantly: filling in gaps, building a world, telling a real story. It’s not long before Jensen can’t even keep track and sometimes there are so many things going on at once that he has to wonder how the hell it got there and why they thought it was a good idea.
Jared and Jensen do the same thing just as fast. They change into something Jensen can’t really wrap his head around most of the time, something Jensen already wonders how he ever lived without only a few months into shooting.
One of the PAs introduces them as they get ready for the first pre-production meeting.
“Jared, this is Jensen Ackles. Jensen, Jared Padalecki.”
Jared’s a little more than Jensen expected, but he thinks the casting might work well enough. The guy is staring at him a little oddly; Jensen decides he’s just nervous and holds his hand out.
“Hey man,” he offers, trying to break the ice. Jared keeps staring for a few seconds before he finally shakes Jensen’s hand and, even then, the expression on his face doesn’t really change.
“You’re not Jensen Ackles,” Jared informs him when he finally manages to say something. “I googled Jensen Ackles. He looks like a teenage girl. You…don’t.”
Jensen just stares back, annoyed and distantly amused at the same time. He must be glaring something awful, because Jared’s face immediately blanches.
“Oh man, did I just say that out loud?”
“Yes,” Jensen replies icily.
Jared laughs, it’s warm and unapologetic and it shakes his entire frame. Jensen’s watching it transfixed, trying his damnedest to make sense of this giant, crazy asshole he's about to spend a week of his life with. So he’s completely taken by surprise when Jared puts one big hand on his shoulder and gives it a friendly squeeze.
“Sorry, man. I have no filter. I keep meaning to work on that.”
“Can’t imagine it’s going well for you.”
“Better than you’d think.” Jared winks at him as if he’s got some big secret he’s managing to hide from Jensen and Jensen wants to stay annoyed, really he does. He doesn’t like being reminded of the treasure trove of embarrassing material available on the internet for his friends from home to mock him with. But Jared throws an arm over Jensen’s shoulders as if they’ve been friends for as long as he can remember and, Jensen can’t even believe it, but he kind of likes it.
“Well, this is a damn shame,” Jared begins grandly as he steers Jensen towards the conference room. “Here I was expecting to be the good looking one and now I’ve got all this competition.”
The meeting is about as interesting as these things usually are, which amounts to as much fun as trying to stay awake through calculus in high school. Nobody in Jensen’s calculus class ever sat across the table making hilariously disdainful faces at him while the teacher wasn’t looking, though, and it might be annoying if Jared wasn’t also asking intelligent questions and showing that, despite his goofing off, he is taking things seriously. Jensen doesn’t really get Jared at all—not at first, but he immediately knows that he wants to.
It’s because of this that Jensen decides to agree when Jared asks him if he wants to go grab a beer. It ends up being the best time Jensen’s had in ages and he’s actually pretty sorry when he’s standing outside with Jared, saying goodnight through a comfortable buzz. They don’t start shooting the pilot for a month and Jensen’s kind of itching to hang out with Jared again.
Jared’s running his mouth about something that makes no sense to Jensen because he is a) tipsy and b) paying no attention, and maybe it’s a) that causes him to word vomit out the distracting thoughts causing b), but Jensen just jumps in on Jared’s rambling.
“You know, you’re not nearly as stupid as you look,” Jensen says sincerely.
“Thanks man,” Jared replies, looking at Jensen with a little smile tucked into his eyes. He gives Jensen one last friendly pat on the back as he gets into his car. “You’re every bit as bitchy as you look.”
Jensen watches him leave and then shakes his head ruefully. Sitting in a car with Jared all day doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to get paid to do. Jensen has suspicions that maybe taking the job wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Once the show gets picked up and they begin filming, that spark escalates fast. Jensen starts catching himself thinking of Jared with words like best friend—words he doesn’t throw around lightly—before they’ve even known each other for an entire season. He almost prefers work hours to off hours because he gets to see Jared, and he likes the time they spend off-set, just hanging out because that’s what friends do, better than anything.
Maybe Jensen loves Jared immediately, but it takes him the better part of a decade to figure that out.
Jensen’s seen a lot of red-rimmed eyes in his life, but he thinks these are the worst.
Jared’s not a pretty crier, never has been. Like everything about Jared, it’s just too real—all snot and the smeared tracks from trying to wipe tears away. These aren’t problems Jensen has to deal with, like Jared’s nonstop gas and the occasional snorting when he laughs. It’s one of those things Jensen usually likes to tease Jared about, but right now he can’t figure out why it ever seemed funny. He’s never seen Jared cry for real and Jared’s not even pretending to hold back. He’s just sitting there, staring at the table, silent except for the upset sounds he can’t hold in. Jensen thinks maybe it looks worse because it’s so different from the Jared he’s used to, the Jared who can find something to smile about even on the worst of days and who’s so damn loud about it that even Jensen can’t ever stay angry. Or maybe it’s worse because Jensen can’t return the favor. He can’t make Jared feel any better, only Sandy could do that, and it’s pretty clear that’s not going to happen.
Jensen’s not bad at dealing with crying, not usually. He’s given the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech to enough ex-girlfriends, or had to explain to sobbing grandmothers why the hell he thought it was a good idea to drop his college hopes to try acting—he’s even been around to help Jared before because, acting or not, there have been times they’ve both gotten too damn invested and shaken up. But guys don’t really call each other very often and say, “hey, my girl just dumped me, let’s hold hands and eat ice cream for a few hours,” so this is new ground. It’s a sign of trust, Jensen thinks, that Jared is letting him see this instead of holing up in his house for a month like Jensen’s pretty sure he would be doing. He knows Jensen won’t tease him for it, but that’s as far as his qualifications for being here go and it’s not really helping Jared.
“I don’t know what happened,” Jared finally chokes out. Jensen actually gets excited because Jared’s talking and that at least gives him something to work with.
“She…didn’t tell you why?”
Jared shrugs. “She said a lot. I did, too. I guess it was mutual, but…I don’t know, Jensen. Fuck. One day we’re engaged, next day I’m out the door.”
“That’s not like Sandy.”
“I didn’t think so, either. I really thought she was the one. And then…” Jared pauses to wipe snot off on his sleeve and Jensen doesn’t even bother pointing out that there’s tissue on the counter behind him. “She fell out of love with me. I knew it as soon as I got home last April. We kept going but it just wasn’t there.”
“But I didn’t want it to end. I said awful things, but I thought we would get over it. I still loved her. I still love her, Jensen.”
“I know you do. But it just wasn’t meant—“
“Bullshit. I let it happen. I didn’t try hard enough.”
“Seriously, man, don’t do that. You know this shit happens to everyone.”
Jared is silent for a long time. Uncomfortably long. Then he gives a petulant little nod and kicks the table leg just hard enough to set Harley barking. Jared’s the only person on the planet who could ever find that soothing, but Jensen sees some of the tension drain out of him as soon as the dog saunters over to see what the noise was and settles his head on Jared’s leg for attention.
“I bought this big house,” Jared says, petting Harley absentmindedly. “I thought we were going to build a fucking home here or something.”
Sadie arrives, maybe looking for Harley or just sensing that there’s finally attention to be had from Jared, and noses Harley out of the way to get to Jared’s hand. Harley turns to Jensen like he’s the obvious solution.
“So much for dogs being loyal,” Jensen mutters, pushing Harley back in Jared’s direction. Harley has a grudge to hold, however, and instead of leaving Jensen alone, he just jumps up and starts licking.
Jared laughs a little, even if it doesn’t have much force. “That’s okay; they’re practically your dogs, too, at this point.”
When Jared finally looks up at Jensen, eyes still misty, he’s at least stopped the tears.
“You hate that apartment, Jensen.”
Jensen stays quiet. He’s pretty sure Jared has more to say, but he doesn’t really see where it’s going.
“The basement here is practically its own place.”
“Jared, now’s not really the time to stress about my living situa—“
“I don’t want to be alone.” Jensen hardly catches it, but he catches it, and Jared’s looking right at him, expecting something.
“You want me to…live in your basement?”
Jared kind of blushes, but he also brings out those huge, stupid, pleading eyes that Jensen is sure managed to save him from a thousand punishments as a kid. “You don’t have to. I thought you might want…it didn’t sound as stupid in my head.”
“When do I move in?” Jensen asks, convinced he’s just been swindled, but nonetheless incapable of coming up with a good argument against it. Jared almost smiles, and that’s about all the reason Jensen would have needed anyway.
The good news is: Jared doesn’t do the dramatic moping-for-months Jensen had dreaded when he was first moving in. Jared’s functional with a broken heart.
It doesn’t get as bad as it could have. Jensen’s a little more at ease when he realizes that he’s helping Jared just by being around. He doesn’t have to try to help, it happens in a million tiny ways that Jensen wouldn’t have thought of, but are exactly what Jared needs.
For example, Jared forgets to eat until he sees Jensen at the table. Jared forgetting food is something Jensen never expected to see, but Jared’s appetite doesn’t suffer; he’s still a black hole once he sits down and makes the effort. It’s like that with most of what Jared does: the early morning workouts Jared would have skipped out on if he wasn’t determined to rub his athleticism in Jensen’s face, the lines Jared has too much trouble memorizing when Jensen doesn’t pretend he needs to practice a scene thirty times, stopping after a socially acceptable number of beers because it would look bad if Jensen stopped and Jared kept going. Jensen holds Jared together and he’s more proud of that than he’s ever been of anything, even if he never in his life intended to spend his work-free hours babysitting his co-star.
Everyone on set thinks Jared’s handling it marvelously and in some ways that’s true, but in ways that Jensen can just barely pick up on, it’s far enough from the truth to scare him. It’s the insomnia that really distresses Jensen. He knows Jared’s tried all of the usual tricks to no avail. Jensen’s seen the Benadryl packets littering the trash, noticed that Jared’s stopped drinking coffee, and he’s pretty sure there were soothing jungle sounds coming from Jared’s room the other night. Despite all of that, every night he hears Jared puttering around upstairs and feels the antsy, uncomfortable atmosphere of insomnia stifling them both, even when Jensen’s out cold. Jared is torpid and unfocused at best during the day. He can hide the exhaustion at work, but he gets home and melts into the sofa, zones out, baggy eyes half-closed but never sleeping. That’s not Jared. Jensen doesn’t want to know who or what it is, but it’s not Jared. This doesn’t go on for long before Jensen finally gets fed up and decides he’s going to be the one to fix it.
When he goes upstairs looking, Jared’s in the kitchen. Jensen flips the lights on and catches him off guard. Jared starts with shock and makes a noise of protest against the light.
“I’m sorry,” Jensen says.
“Did I wake you?”
“No. Just couldn’t sleep.”
Jared laughs a little awkwardly. “Yeah, me neither.”
It’s lucky that Jensen knows better than to say, “I know, dumbass.”
“Did you want some water or anything?”
Jensen sees that Jared’s got a pitcher and a glass of water in his hands. That seems like a pretty good cover, so he nods and lets Jared get another cup down.
“You’re sure I didn’t wake you?”
Jensen shakes his head and, because he wants Jared to feel less self-conscious, he adds, “Happens to me a lot.”
“Like, once a month a lot or…?”
“Pretty much every night,” says Jensen.
“That sucks, man.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Me too, though,” Jared says after a few quiet moments, like his being awake will somehow make it better that Jensen can’t sleep. A part of Jensen wants to throttle his friend, but it’s not Jared’s fault that he believes Jensen’s lie, so he swallows the water in his mouth and pretends to be surprised.
“That a fact?”
Jared nods and chews on his lower lip. “Kind of funny, us being up every night and thinking the other is asleep.”
Jensen looks at the floor and stays quiet. He doesn’t know if it would be worse for Jared to feel guilty he’s the reason Jensen can’t sleep, or for him to think it’s weird that Jensen cares that much. Either way, Jensen is happy to let it pass as a coincidence.
They stand in the kitchen drinking their water in companionable silence and when they say their goodnights, Jensen listens for signs that Jared’s still agitated. After ten minutes of calm, Jensen falls asleep.
Jared’s in better spirits the next day, so Jensen decides to try again that night. He thinks he’s being very subtle, but when he stumbles sleepily into the kitchen, Jared’s wide awake and looks like he’s been expecting him. There are two cups of milk on the counter.
“My mama always gave me warm milk when I couldn’t sleep.”
“And now look at you, using the big boy cup instead of your bottle.”
“Eat me,” Jared retorts fondly, flipping Jensen off with one hand and taking a sip from his glass with the other.
“Mature and original.”
Jared rolls his eyes. “I slaved over this milk to make you happy and all I get is criticism.”
“You know what would make this awesome instead of completely lame? Cookies. You can’t have milk without cookies, dude.”
“Wow! And you were giving me shit about being a baby?”
Jared and Jensen drink their milk in between snide remarks and the next night when Jensen gets to the kitchen, Jared’s at the table with two glasses of milk and a plate of cookies. It becomes a thing pretty fast—sometimes they end up making fun of late night TV, sometimes they play a few rounds of video games, but the milk and cookies are always waiting when Jensen gets upstairs. It helps Jensen sleep and he knows it’s helping Jared, too.
Jensen realizes one day while they’re on set that Jared really is okay again. He’s sitting around, waiting for their shot to be ready, and Jared is annoying the crap out of some poor tech guy, asking questions about stuff he will never need to know. He looks over at Jensen at one point and smiles while making some comment about how creepy it is to have Jensen staring at him and, yes, he knows he’s sexy, but couldn’t Jensen try to restrain himself? Jensen calls Jared an asshole and means it, and somehow he feels like it’s the best news he’s delivered in months.
Jared’s been improving gradually for a long time, so Jensen doesn’t even know if Jared’s been this healthy for months and he just hadn’t noticed. Everything is back to normal except that, regardless of how healthy or sick or tired or awake they’re feeling, there’s always two glasses of milk and a plate of cookies on the table by the time they both wander into the kitchen between 4 and 5 in the morning.
Oddly enough, Jensen feels like this, more than living or working together, is what helps them stay so close. It gives them time to talk as friends—just talk about whatever the hell they feel like saying instead of having to be coworkers all day and getting home too tired some evenings to be able to hang out properly. They go to bed earlier to make up for the lost mid-morning hour of sleep—they don’t ever have a problem with it, so they never bother changing it.
That’s the way things are for years. Most of the important conversations in Jared and Jensen’s friendship happen over cookies and milk while most sane people are sleeping.
It therefore makes perfect sense to Jensen that Jared tells him about Genevieve at 5:17 a.m. in between licking the cream off an Oreo and then eating the chocolate part whole. Jensen’s not really surprised; Jared’s been single long enough to be ready to date again and he and Genevieve have incredible chemistry. He thinks it’s a great idea, that it’ll be good for Jared, even if it doesn’t work out. But Jensen is damned if he’s going to miss an opportunity to be an asshole.
“That’s really disgusting, man.”
“Me asking Genevieve out is disgusting?”
“No, sorry,” Jensen says. “I wasn’t listening to that part; I was watching the bubbles in my milk. It’s the way you eat Oreos. Unholy.”
“I’m glad that your anal retentive cookie dunking is more important than my love life.”
“This is an art form.” Jensen removes his cookie and makes an exaggerated “mmm” sound as he takes a bite.
“You’re a freak.”
Jensen finishes his milk and rises from the table. “I’m a freak stuffed with perfectly dunked cookies and you’re a freak who never learned how to eat Oreos. And you have that forehead. Sucks to be you.” He begins to walk away and then pauses just as he’s passing Jared. “Oh, and Jared?”
“Don’t ask Genevieve out.”
“She’s kind of awesome and doesn’t deserve to have to put up with you any more than she already does.”
“You’re a douche,” Jared says, turning to face Jensen just in time for Jensen to lightly tap him on the head with his dish.
“Hey, get to bed soon. You’re gonna need all the beauty sleep you can get if you expect your ugly ass to get a date tomorrow.”
“Yeah, yeah. Goodnight, mother.”
Jensen sometimes wants to kick himself for forgetting that he doesn’t have to take care of Jared anymore, but Jared’s got a fond little smile on his face so Jensen just shrugs it off. He misses looking after Jared sometimes, even after all the days he spent hoping for Jared to get better, and maybe a part of him worries that something will change between them if Jared really does ask Genevieve out. But then he remembers the way Jared used to look at Sandy and smile and say ridiculous things because he was in love, and Jensen wants nothing more than for Jared to have that again.
“Has it ever occurred to you that, aside from actually being gay, this is just about the gayest thing two guys can do together?”
Jensen looks up at Jared and then back at his cookie, which may or may not be shaped like a teddy bear.
“Nuh uh,” he says defensively, but he’s suddenly not so convinced.
“No, seriously. We have, like, cookie dates. Every night. There’s something wrong there.”
“I’d say it’s more like having cookie dates every morning.”
Jensen doesn’t really want to admit how much it scares him that Jared could be getting tired of this, of something that’s so them. He’s maybe a little testier than he needs to be when he replies.
“Whatever. Is your fat ass about to give up the chance to ingest sugar daily? I didn’t think so.”
“Who said anything about giving it up? I’m just saying. We’re kind of gay.”
Jensen laughs and goes on biting his teddy bear’s arm off. “You really have to get over this crush someday, Jared. I’m going to be a married man soon. Assuming she says yes. She’s gonna say yes, right?”
“Yes, Jensen. For the eight billionth time. She’s definitely going to say yes.”
“Right. So no more trying to seduce me at 5 in the morning.”
“I think I’m going to be a married man soon, too,” Jared suddenly blurts out in one breath.
Jensen drops his cookie into his milk and looks up at Jared.
“What was that now?”
“Is that a good strong reaction or a bad strong reaction?”
“It’s a strong reaction, keep talking.”
“Is it too soon, do you think? I wanna ask her, Jen. I know it’s only been a year, but it’s so different this time. I mean, with Sandy I felt like I kind of had to, ya know? Four years and we were in Paris and all that. I mean, I loved her, you know I did, but it didn’t feel right. That’s why I kept putting it off. But this feels so right. I’m happy all the time.”
Jensen’s lips can’t help tugging up a little and he trains his eyes on his glass so Jared doesn’t see the face he’s making.
“You just couldn’t stand letting me win the race, huh?”
Jared kicks him under the table. “Seriously. I’m asking for advice here. I don’t wanna screw this up again.”
“You love her. She loves you. Sometimes you just know.” Jensen’s a little surprised to hear himself say it, because he doesn’t usually feel that way at all. He waited three years to be sure about Danneel and marriage isn’t something he takes lightly. But he knows Jared well enough to read him and he can’t help agreeing that it feels right. “No use wasting time.”
Proposing was harder than this. And scarier. And Jensen made it through that alive. This should be a walk in the park. Should be, but isn’t. Jensen’s a nervous wreck all over again.
“Dude, are you alright? You’re sweating like you’re me or something.”
“It’s not that bad,” Jensen says, because he has a little pride to uphold.
Jared lifts an eyebrow. “Is this about the wedding?”
Isn’t everything about the wedding nowadays? Jensen’s pretty sure he hasn’t had a conversation about anything else since February. And that’s only because they were talking about Jared’s wedding then. Weddings were running Jensen’s life all of a sudden.
“Look. You know I’m not as close to Josh as you are to Jeff…”
Jared’s eyes go a little wide for a second like he’s already guessed what’s coming and then he reins it in, pretends to still be confused.
“And you’re pretty much the best friend I’ve got, so. I was just thinking…I just thought you might like to be—“
Jared grabs Jensen’s hands and sits up.
“You want me to be your best man?”
No tact, Jensen thinks with amusement. He shakes his head and chuckles and Jared pales and sinks back into himself.
“Well, that’s embarrassing. I shouldn’t have assum—“
“I’ll take that as a yes, then?”
Jared smiles in that certifiably insane way he has, and Jensen thinks that Danneel was probably right and this was a very, very bad idea.
“Under one condition.”
“It’s your week to buy the cookies, and if you come home with oatmeal again, I am going to jump in on ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ with a confession of our years of epic gay love.”
“Dude, I’m hiding the internet bill and cutting you off.”
“Are you cutting me off from the internet, or cutting me off from our epic gay love?”
“I’m pretty sure one thing leads to another since the latter only exists on the internet.”
“What are you talking about? I thought you loved me! I totally love you.”
“Goodnight, Jared,” Jensen replies, dropping his plate and cup in the sink and heading for bed.
“And no goddamn Keebler brand, either. Are you listening? This is life or death.” Jared shouts out from the table.
“Why don’t you just tell me what to get so I can go to sleep?”
“Oh, I don’t really care. Surprise me!”
Jensen can picture the face Jared’s making, so instead of sticking his head back into the kitchen, he just closes the door behind him forcefully and waits by it for a bit to listen to Jared’s laughter.
It all runs itself alarmingly well. Danneel has bridesmaids to do the work that she doesn’t do herself, so Jensen is spared any decision involving taste. The paperwork she leaves for Jensen, and poor Jared has been so brainwashed by three months of blissful marriage that he voluntarily takes it upon himself to do the majority of that. In the end, the only real decision Jensen has to make is hiring the band and, seeing as most of his friends are musicians, it really just means splitting the time between Steve, Chris, and Jason and letting them fight out who gets which time slots.
Of course, when the day comes, Jensen still manages to get worked up and damn near hyperventilates.
“Okay. Seriously. Stop pacing, sit down, and breathe.”
“Can’t. I’m freaking out.”
“No, you’re not freaking out, Jensen. You’re freaking out because you’re not freaking out.”
The other groomsmen snicker, but Jensen pauses mid-pace because it’s true and hearing it out loud makes him feel ridiculous.
Jared makes a bitchy face Jensen’s only ever seen him make as Sam and turns to the other people in the room.
“Okay, everyone out. I need to talk to the bride.”
They all shoot Jensen an “is he serious?” glance. Jensen just shrugs and watches them leave.
“Jensen. What is wrong with you? You’re sure about this. I know you are. You don’t have anything to worry about.”
“I am sure,” Jensen agrees. His voice goes soft. “I love her so much, Jare.”
“I know you do. So why the hell are you holding shit up?”
“I just keep thinking: what if something goes wrong? Something is bound to go wrong, right?”
“What’s going to go wrong?”
“I don’t know. The place burns down? The dinner and the cake never arrive? I trip in the middle of the ceremony or say something stupid?” Jared looks unimpressed as Jensen runs through the checklist of scenarios he’s been stressing over. “Aliens?”
“Ok. All of that is going to happen.” Jensen makes a sound somewhere between a whimper and a squeak and wonders how this is supposed to be helpful. Jared continues, “We have to have the wedding outside on this beautiful summer day, the aliens take Misha back to wherever he came from, I buy your entire wedding party McDonald’s (and by the way, I expect you to reimburse me as soon as you’re back from your honeymoon), and at the end of the day, you’re married to a girl who loves you and you have your entire lifetime to make up for the fact that you stepped on her dress and ripped it just as the photographers started clicking away.”
Jensen lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding and nods.
“Wait until you hear the speech I’ve got for when the priest says—“
Jensen’s palms go clammy again in seconds. He thinks briefly of the bachelor party last week and points an accusing finger into Jared’s face.
“You promised you didn’t have anything else up your sleeve.”
Jared sighs and does his best to look put-upon. “Alright, alright. Since I promised. There will be no speeches from the best man until after the wedding.”
“You good now?”
“Yeah. I’m good.”
“Alright. Let’s go get you married off before Danneel realizes how much better she can do.”
Jensen opens the door and is met by the blank stares of his groomsmen.
“Good news, guys. It’s gonna be fine.”
“Yeah, we know,” one of them snaps and Jensen’s too busy getting married to bother figuring out exactly who it was.
In the end, the ceremony was perfect, the party was great (at least as far as Jensen was concerned, but he was admittedly only paying attention to Danneel), and the honeymoon suite is even better than Jensen had anticipated from the amount they expect him to pay.
Still, at 4:23 in the morning, he lets out a heavy sigh and reaches to the night stand, giving up on sleeping. Jared answers on the first ring.
Jensen rolls his eyes as a badly chanted version of the wedding march booms from the other line.
“That was beautiful,” Jensen says.
“Thank you, thank you. I’ve been practicing all night.”
“Poor, poor Genevieve.”
“Don’t worry. I was practicing in my head. I only share my incredible talents with you.”
“So, what are you calling me about at this hour?” Jared asks, as if he hadn’t been waiting by the phone. Jensen can see him, all sprawled out in his chair, fingers drumming on the kitchen table.
Of course, he already has an answer ready. He’s been playing this game just as long as Jared has. “Just wanted to thank you for telling us about this place. It’s perfect.”
“Isn’t it? God, I didn’t want to leave. I kept telling Sandy I was going to convince the network to set up a new Vancouver down there in the tropics. She wasn’t supportive.”
“Ah, too bad you didn’t take the current Mrs. Padalecki instead. Frankly, she probably could have gotten them to give you the island. She’s terrifying.”
Jared laughs. “Only around you and my in-laws, I swear. And speaking of scary wives, where is Mrs. Ackles?”
Jensen takes a moment to soak it in: Mrs. Ackles. He lets the strands of hair he’s been fiddling with fall lightly onto Danneel’s shoulder and can smell her shampoo as it drops. She looks gorgeous and peaceful and Jensen’s held her like this a million times, but it’s different now. She’s really his.
“Right here,” he finally responds, his voice so gentle it doesn’t even sound like him. He gets a grip of himself and adds with a little more force, “asleep.”
“Dude, dude, dude.” Jensen can hear the dopey smile cutting dimples into Jared’s cheeks. “Your wife can sleep through phone calls?”
“Danny could sleep in a circus tent.”
“This is going to be the best marriage ever.” Jared believes. Even through the joking, Jensen senses the undercurrent of something more serious, and he can’t help believing it, too. They’re both so happy—they’ve got their wives, and a steady job, and they’ve got each other—that it doesn’t even seem fair to Jensen.
“Hey, Jen, you should go to sleep.”
“Tried. I’m not tired yet. I can’t.”
“Yeah, you can. You’ve got to get on a normal schedule. I’ll never stop feeling guilty if Danneel has to put up with you being tired on her honeymoon.”
As if his body was just waiting for Jared’s permission, Jensen yawns.
“Yeah, alright. I’ll talk to you...”
Jensen hangs up and starts to drift out with a lazy smile. His last thought is that he’s just had the best day of what Jensen will rarely admit has been a pretty charmed life.
Living with Jared and Genevieve is exactly what Jensen had imagined when he thought he’d be going to college with a bunch of frat assholes and being a frat asshole himself. Half the time he forgets Genevieve isn’t just one of the guys, because every dorm has to have that one anal retentive kid that cleans up everyone’s beer cans in between rounds of flip cup. He almost feels kind of guilty for dragging her out of her element like this.
“Remind me again why I have to go to this boring shit?” Jensen hears Genevieve whine from down the hall.
“Because you’re awesome and amazing and perfect.”
“Nope, that’s not it.”
“Because if Jensen goes to another press event alone, he’ll have no one to make fun of it with and start crying again. You know how he gets.”
“Well, why don’t you go? You’re much better at dealing with sobbing children than I am.”
“I am thirty-one and three quarters, and older than both of you, thank-you-very-much,” Jensen calls out.
“I can’t go as his date, babe. The internet will explode.”
“You two have a really inflated sense of importance,” Genevieve says.
“That we do. Come on, Gen. You’re our Obi Wan! No one else can save Princess Jensen. Danneel will beat him up again if he tries taking a real girl as his date.”
“Hey, what the fuck do you mean a real girl?”
“I think my friend Jared is just jealous of how beautiful my date is,” Jensen shouts as smarmily as he can from the bathroom.
“I can’t believe you’re letting me go out with him. He’s better looking, and nicer, and presentable in public…you’re just handing me away.”
“Yeah, well. You’re not really that much to write home about, so I figured: what’s the worst that could—?”
Jensen hears Genevieve slap Jared’s shoulder playfully as he makes his way to the living room, catching the end of an exaggerated cheek kiss that Genevieve tries to shove away.
“Holy shit,” Jared says when he lifts his head enough to look at Jensen.
Genevieve turns around. “Holy shit,” she agrees.
“Uh…is holy shit good or bad?”
“Seriously, seriously good,” Genevieve answers warmly.
“No homo, but I’d totally fuck you right now.”
“No homo, but I owe you one, so I guess I’d have to let you.”
“I really don’t think you guys understand that expression,” Genevieve says, making an odd face and walking out of the room without a further goodbye to Jared.
Jared shrugs and waves as Jensen follows her outside. She’s weirdly out of it all night, and Jensen wonders if he did something to piss her off, but she’s back to her usual self in the morning. Jensen decides that he either imagined it, or it was just a weird chick thing, satisfies himself that the world will never know, and forgets about it pretty quickly.
They’re a little more than halfway into season six the first time Jensen gets a hint that things may not be as stupidly optimistic as he’s been feeling for the last year. It’s not a very subtle hint, either.
Things had seemed fine in the Ackles-Padalecki house. Living with newlyweds hadn’t been Jensen’s favorite thing in the world, especially when he was a newlywed himself and hardly ever got to see Danneel, but it hadn’t been too awful, considering. Jared and Genevieve had always gone at it like bunny rabbits, but Jensen’s room is mostly soundproof and he never had a problem avoiding them when they needed privacy. Anyway, they calmed down pretty soon after the three of them had all settled back in; Jensen didn’t know if that had to do with him being around or the excitement of being just married wearing off, but they didn’t seem concerned about it. Genevieve didn’t kill the mood or interrupt boy time; she blended into it pretty seamlessly. When Jensen wanted to hang out with Jared like old times, they always had their private break in the night while Genevieve was sleeping obliviously down the hall.
Okay, sure, sometimes he was jealous—Genevieve had moved in and Danneel, bless her stubborn soul, was in L.A. doing her damnedest to land roles. That was just the way things were. Supernatural was coming to a conclusion, a nice, natural fizzing out that Jensen was proud of and when it was over, he knew he would get to have the home and family with Danneel he’d been planning for years. So Jensen thought things were fine, because Jensen was selfish and only looking at things from his own point of view.
“And I have shot you again!” Jared announces, adding a booming “woo” as he fist pumps into the air.
“Quiet down, asshole. Genevieve is fucking sleeping.”
Jared looks at Jensen confused for a second before shaking his hair out of his face and turning back to the television.
“No she’s not. Another round?”
“Look, I don’t wanna talk about it, okay?”
“No. Not okay. What do you mean she’s not sleeping?”
“She’s not here. Can we drop it?”
“Jay, what happened?”
By now, Jensen has put his controller aside and Jared’s still holding on to his, but Jensen knows it’s just a security blanket. Jared’s not the “I don’t want to talk about it” type and Jensen gets that and knows how hard to push.
“Where? For how long? Did you guys get in a fight?”
“She has a friend about twenty minutes away, she’s staying with her. She’s staying with her for…I don’t know how long. But she’s not coming back here.” Jared swallows hard. “We’re getting divorced.”
Jensen stares straight at Jared and tries to get what he just said, he really does, but it doesn’t go through. He’s been living with Jared and Genevieve for months, so all the ear splitting fights that come with getting divorced should not have been able to escape his notice. Jared and Genevieve hardly ever fight, and it’s never serious. Jensen obviously just heard something wrong.
“But you’re happy.”
Jared scoffs. “Until we weren’t? Look, I know what you must be thinking. This is pathetic. We aren’t even trying. I shouldn’t have married her if we’re just going to give up on it in a few months. Trust me, I know. It’s all been running through my head on repeat.”
“Then why? What the hell, Jared? Divorce is a big fucking word. Are you sure you guys aren’t going to make up in a few days?”
“No. We’re not. There’s nothing left to keep it together for. It’s not like we’re having a rough patch and we think we hate each other now and just need to cool off. I still love her, and she still loves me, and we’re gonna hang out and be friends just like before. But, that’s it. Friends.”
“I don’t get it.”
“We’re not a couple anymore. We’re just not. We haven’t been for so long I hardly remember when we were. I mean, at first it was just her—she never wanted to have sex or do any of the things we used to enjoy, and then I guess it rubbed off on me or my pride was hurt or something, but every time we try to get it back, it’s obvious it’s not there and, well, neither of us was really made to go without sex, so that’s a big problem, but that’s not it. We don’t do anything together anymore and neither of us really misses it and, you know me, I can’t go the rest of my life without that stuff.”
Jared word vomits all of that out as if he’s been dying to talk to someone about it for years and Jensen can’t help wondering what he did to make Jared think he couldn’t before. Jared goes silent and looks down, plays with the loose threads on his shirt. Jensen takes the time while Jared’s not talking to look back on the last few months and suddenly he sees it. At some point, Genevieve stopped cuddling into Jared’s arms while they watched TV and Jared stopped sneaking kisses on her. Jensen feels like a prize asshole, because he didn’t bother to give it a minute’s thought and put it together that Jared needed his help.
“I think it’s better if we don’t pretend. Gen thinks so, too. I’m not even that torn up about it? I mean, it happened slowly, so I’m used to it. Still fucking miserable about the divorce thing…man, every time I say it I swear I can hear my parent’s hearts breaking. I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed to get divorced, but. Yeah. So that happened. Let’s end this conversation.”
Jared presses a few buttons and beats Jensen in three more rounds before the awkward atmosphere has died away enough for him to announce he’s heading to bed.
The rest of season six flies by a little faster than Jensen is comfortable with. Things feel more natural than they did for the first half—Genevieve comes over and hangs out exactly like she used to before she and Jared were married and Jensen has to hand it to them, he’s never seen anyone do the “just friends” thing so flawlessly in his life. The only difference is that instead of pulling Jared down the hall and spending the night, now Genevieve gives Jensen a kiss on the cheek and sends Jared a warm smile before leaving. Jensen feels a little like a kid whose parents just got divorced.
Jensen’s anniversary is fast approaching when he gets an ecstatic phone call from Danneel that the pilot they’d shot over the winter hiatus is actually getting picked up. Jensen had very little hope for it and only agreed to do it because Danneel was so enthusiastic about them getting to work together, but now he thinks it’s the best damn news he’s ever heard, even if the show’s going to film in Vancouver and Jensen had been looking forward to living in a climate he didn’t have to worry about getting frostbite in.
He tells Jared at the wrap party, while they’re standing off to the side, buzzed and trying to avoid the cheesy but inevitable “remember when” wrap party conversations. Jensen doesn’t really think there’s anything to be dramatic about—ending the show feels right and he doesn’t worry, not for a second, about his friendship with Jared. He knows Jared feels the same way, with maybe a little more regret about letting the show go.
Jared turns the party into a riot when he hears it, smiling and making sounds and wrapping an arm around Jensen’s shoulders before dragging him in front of anyone who will listen and telling them the great news. Jensen blushes and can’t help smiling, accepts congratulations, and does his usual I’m-sorry-about-my-friend-Jared-he’s-a-l
The next morning, Jared stomps into the kitchen about twenty minutes after Jensen gets there and looks at him closely before heading for the Advil. His hair’s sticking up at all angles and his eyes are bright red. He asks Jensen if he had a very good time at the party (because he doesn’t remember and he’d better have for this headache) before heading back to bed with a sour look. Jensen doesn’t see him again until evening, which makes sense because Jensen spends the entire day downstairs packing. He’ll admit that the weepy nostalgia hit him that morning when he’d started putting his things back in the boxes they came out of, preparing to say goodbye to what had been his home for years. Jared shouts down for him to stop and come upstairs around 6 and Jensen figures he deserves the break.
“Hey, Jen,” Jared says. He’s got a smile so big it’s practically glowing when he sees Jensen.
“I guess. You?”
“Busy,” Jensen answers, pointing downstairs. “Packing.”
“Oh.” Jared’s smile kind of falters for a second, but then he makes eye contact with Jensen and his features are all stupidly bright again. Jensen thinks he can feel the excitement thrumming in Jared’s blood. “I got you something.”
Jensen lifts an eyebrow.
“I mean, kind of. Well, it’s. I guess it’s a wedding present?”
“I got married a year ago.”
“I never got you a wedding present.”
“Yes you did! Genevieve picked up that kitchen appliance Danny wanted so much that I still don’t understand at all.”
“No, I mean, I know we got you guys a gift. But I never really got you a gift, you know?”
“You guys made it this far and you’re still going strong. Not everyone can do that.” Jared’s face looks a little ashamed for a moment and Jensen gets the same pang he feels every time he thinks about Jared and Genevieve—sometimes he thinks he took their divorce worse than Jared did.
“You don’t have to get me a present every time I do somethi—“
“I’m looking for an excuse here, will you work with me?”
Jensen just nods.
“Okay, awesome,” Jared says, before reaching into a bag on the counter behind him and pushing a thick packet of papers into Jensen’s hands. Jensen looks down at the papers, then back up at Jared, and then his mouth drops open vapidly.
“You don’t have to accept it. I just wanted to offer it to you before anyone else.”
“Jared, this is ridiculous.”
“Don’t hold back. Tell me how you really feel.”
“No, I mean you can’t give me a house.” Jensen’s suddenly weirdly emotional about it, wants the house more than he’s wanted anything in a long time. “I’ll pay you what it deserves. I can afford it. I want it.”
Jared’s smile actually manages to get bigger. “Really?”
“Yeah. It’s a great idea. I mean, if you’re really sure you don’t want to keep it.”
“No, yeah. Yes. I…I’ve been stressing about it, you know? I mean, I’m going back to L.A. and I don’t really need two houses. But I didn’t want to let it go…this place feels more like home sometimes and the thought of just selling it to strangers—” He shakes his head. “And then you and Danny got this job and it’s like a sign or something. It’s your home, too. I would rather have you guys living here than have the extra money.”
Jensen moves forward to hug Jared before he even realizes what he’s doing, but when he tries to stop, Jared just wraps his arms around Jensen and Jensen disappears into it gladly. They hold it for too long. Nobody says it, but in that moment all Jensen can think is that he’s really going to miss living with Jared and he’s oddly sure that Jared is thinking the exact same thing.
Jensen has a boarding pass and his passport waiting on the nightstand. In a few hours, he’ll be on a plane to L.A. and the next time he comes into this house, Jared’s things will be gone. Tonight is the last night that they are roommates. They’ve worked hard, they’re both exhausted, and they deserve a few months in the warm California sun. But Jensen thanks God he has something to do right now, because no way is he getting any sleep tonight.
3:07 is a little earlier than Jared and Jensen usually meet up, but Jensen has a feeling Jared’s just as restless, so he decides to hell with it, and goes upstairs to check.
“Took you long enough,” Jared laughs as soon as Jensen appears in the kitchen doorway.
“I was very busy pretending to sleep.”
Jensen looks at the plate of cookies on the table and whistles appreciatively.
“Those are some big fucking cookies.”
“Impressed? They’re double-chocolate. I’m psyched.”
“They’re the size of my head.”
“I love how big is the same as classy to you.”
“Wait, you want to see what’s really classy to me?”
Jensen nods, amused by Jared’s antics. Jared gets up and grabs two tall glasses out of the microwave.
“You upgraded the milk?”
“Chocolate milk is classier than normal milk. Or at least it’s more expensive, which is the same thing. I almost got some nice wine, but then I thought ‘What if Jensen’s uncontrollable desire to dunk his cookie overpowers how gross wine-soaked cookies would be?’ I decided not to take the chance. I don’t think I could watch that.”
Jensen smiles, takes his seat opposite Jared, and waits for Jared to start. They stare at each other wordlessly for a while before Jensen finally tries to grab one of the massive cookies off the plate. He stops mid-way.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“A little too exciting.”
They both look down and sit in silence again.
“I can’t do it,” Jared finally admits.
“Yeah, me neither.”
Jared sighs. “Wanna watch infomercials until we pass out on the couch?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Jensen says, mustering up as much enthusiasm as possible.
They spend their last hours as roommates with their feet in each other’s faces, sleeping uncomfortable on a too-small sofa. Jensen cleans up the untouched cookies and milk the next morning, trying one just for the sake of tradition. Then he packs his last things and heads for the airport. He reminds himself that he’ll finally get to see his girl. He tells himself there’s nothing sad about it. He even begins to believe it.
On to Part Two