There are no fireworks in Jensen’s marriage. It’s never overblown and obnoxiously happy. At first, Jensen thinks that’s weird. Sure, they’ve been married for a year, but they haven’t lived together, not really. This should be their honeymoon period. It isn’t. They’re the same as before, only now their things coexist in the same space. Jensen consoles himself with the all-too-real knowledge that those periods of infatuation don’t equal a happy marriage. Just look at Jared and Genevieve. He does his best to stifle those thoughts, but sometimes he can’t help them. It’s fine, he tells himself. He and Danneel have always had a mature relationship and the fact that their marriage is sensible isn’t a problem. They love each other, that’s what matters.
They get through a season, one year working and living together, two years of marriage. Jensen is still waiting. He’s given up on the perfect daydreams, settled for something realistic. He doesn’t have to love living with Danneel, he loves Danneel. But he’s had more than enough time to adjust and every morning he wakes up expecting it to feel regular and comfortable. Every morning, he says “it’ll be there tomorrow.” Deep down he wants to admit it, but it’s too ugly a thought and Jensen can’t acknowledge it. He doesn’t love living with Danneel, and he’s starting to give up hope of growing to like it.
Maybe, he tells himself sometimes, they shouldn’t have gotten married until they’d tried this. But no, that’s wrong, because they practically shared Jensen’s house in L.A. and that went fine, even when they lived there together for months. It was just never home to Jensen. This was home. And now it’s Danneel’s home, too. That should mean something; make it feel more welcoming than ever. It doesn’t. It doesn’t fit. Everything is wrong. Everything she does is wrong, even though there’s nothing wrong with any of it.
Jensen despises himself for months, tries to talk sense into his thick skull—he knows he’s the one causing problems. Not that he brings any of it up to her, he doesn’t complain…he has nothing to complain about. But silently it all builds up and it makes no sense to Jensen, no sense at all.
Danneel is not hard to live with. Jensen has lived with two other girlfriends in his life, both of them harder to put up with than Danneel, and Jensen always adjusted to them, learned to live with their quirks, sometimes got fond of them. Danneel is a saint next to Melissa, who had at least 400 pairs of shoes and left 300 of them lying in Jensen’s way. She doesn’t snore like Emily did. Danneel’s not lazy, or messy, or loud, or selfish. Danneel’s as great as she always has been. But Jensen looks at the way she’s arranged the furniture, or the stacking of the groceries in the fridge, or the way she chooses to budget her time, and every tiny thing he has to adjust to is a hardship. He feels a nasty prick of annoyance no matter how much better it looks this way or how willing Danneel is to ask for Jensen’s opinion before changing things.
Danneel tries. She tries so hard to make him happy and at first he convinces her, but eventually he begins to see a hurt understanding in her eyes when he’s thanking her and trying to act excited and feeling nothing as he says it. They come home from a long day at work and usually, Danneel will offer to make dinner, something delicious with effort and a well-laid table. It tastes like nothing next to the memory of eating take-out on the couch, still wearing Dean Winchester’s sweat-drenched shirts and trying to push Jared’s stupidly long limbs off his side of the sofa. They make love and he holds her afterward, but he wakes up unsatisfied from every full night of sleep, knowing that the missing ingredient to his happiness is a stomach full of chocolate chips and 2% milk.
Jensen thinks he has Stockholm syndrome. Because Jared? Was not easy to live with. Hell, Jensen changed his entire sleeping schedule to put up with the guy’s habits. Harley and Sadie were nowhere as well-behaved as Icarus and Jensen learned to shake his head and roll his eyes when they trashed his things or got hair on him just as he was about to go out. Jared is loud, and he listens to awful music, and he can’t cook anything but always insisted on trying at least once a month, which meant Jensen had to put up with fire alarms and the lingering scent of smoke. Jared had so many unpleasant habits that Jensen had to learn to live with that he thinks he’s used up all of his good nature for the rest of his life. He’s finally hit a threshold on the number of things he can adjust to and poor Danneel is just the innocent victim of that. Understanding this, or at least thinking he understands it, doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening, that Jensen is ruined for any other roommate—even his own fucking wife.
But that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is that Jensen starts to feel like he never spends time with anyone but Danneel—like he never gets a moment to himself. Which would normally make sense. You work with someone most of the day, then you go home and spend the rest of your time with them, and everyone’s going to need a break from that on occasion. Jensen knows better. Jensen knows because he lived with Jared for years and he can count the days he came home thinking, “if I see Jared Padalecki’s face for one more minute today, I am going to scream.”
He had more scenes with Jared and less groundwork for a relationship this time-consuming.
So there it is: the cold facts of the case all laid out, too obvious for Jensen to refute. Jensen can see someone that often and not get fed-up. It just can’t be Danneel.
Jensen and Danneel are watching a movie when the call comes in. Jensen wouldn’t have taken it had it been anyone else, but seeing that it’s Jared’s name flashing on the caller ID makes him answer in the middle of a scene and get up without pausing. He realizes too late that Danneel hates that and is probably going to be pissed at him when he gets back.
“This better be important. I’m not getting laid tonight thanks to this call.”
“You will not believe what I am about to tell you.”
“You’re finally going to see a doctor about that gas condition?”
“Fuck you, no. I’m going to be your neighbor.”
“Oh god, tell me this is a nightmare.”
“No seriously, listen. I just got cast in a show and they’re already pretty sure we’re going to get picked up. It’s gonna film in Vancouver and it’s about spies or crime, I don’t know, I haven’t really read the whole script yet. But my audition was awesome, so I guess I did something right, and I can just tell it’s gonna go somewhere.”
“That’s great, man,” Jensen says, trying to keep his voice level. Under control. No choked emotions through the phone. Jensen would never hear the end of it.
In the two years since Supernatural, Jensen doesn’t get to see Jared nearly as often as he thought he would. Maybe at the time the show ended, Jensen was just too used to having him around to imagine a world where they go months without seeing each other, but it’s been long enough now that Jensen shouldn’t be so hurt over it. It’s not that they grow apart or Jared doesn’t try. Jensen’s busy with his show most of the time and Jared’s doing so well in Hollywood that Jensen sometimes gets weirdly proud thinking of how much Jared’s grown as a person and an actor from the kid he’d been when they met. He lands a few solid supporting character roles in blockbusters, even stars in a handful of decently circulated movies. Jensen goes to see them all, including the chick flicks that he swears make his brain hurt. Jared does great in all of them. Jensen’s not jealous of Jared’s success—he chose to stick with Danneel, and he was never as cut out for fame as Jared is. Maybe, if it had been anyone else, Jensen would have been a little envious. But not Jared. The only thing he hates about it is that they never have the same time off and Jensen has the decency to feel bad for resenting that. They’re both working actors—that’s a lot to be thankful for.
Jared’s star power grows enough that he’s able to return to Vancouver and carry a show on his own. Jensen thanks whoever’s looking out for him that Supernatural happened when it did, when Jared still needed him. Jensen got fond of the crazy mess of a series, and he would have missed out on a lot had there not been two Winchester brothers—he would have missed out on Jared. Jared’s moved on and done so many things that Supernatural’s probably half-forgotten by now, but Jensen still goes to work every morning a little unsure that he can make himself care about what happens to the idiot lawyer he plays—two years ago the whole damn world was on his shoulders. And isn’t that pathetic, feeling like you hit your peak when the best thing about it was just that you got to hang out with the same moron every day?
They still talk on the phone all the time, several times a week usually. Jensen never feels like he’s missing a part of Jared’s life, or like Jared’s missing a part of his. He just longs for the old comfort of having his best friend around all the time. So maybe Jensen is happier on a selfish level than he is for Jared when Jared tells him he’s coming back. Jensen thinks he needs Jared around at this point. Things are getting lonelier and lonelier in Vancouver. The harder Jensen tries to hang on to what he used to have with Danneel, the more obvious it becomes that they’re growing apart.
Jensen had assumed that Jared showing up would fix everything. In some ways it works. Jared’s a comfort to him, a perfect distraction. But things don’t get better, they get worse.
Danneel finally gets hostile. Jensen can’t blame her; in fact, he’s impressed by how long she held out. Three years of marriage—none of them particularly shining—before she finally started to openly acknowledge the problems. Instead of just looking sad and trying to improve what she thinks is making Jensen unhappy, she starts to fight Jensen, to bring the things he tries so hard to hide out into the open. He’s the one to blame because he’s the one who couldn’t be happy, but she’s the one who has to bring it up—it makes her look like the bad guy. She picks the fights, but she’s right and that makes Jensen have a hard time fighting back. Jensen’s silence only enrages Danneel more. She thinks he’s still trying to pretend the things she talks about don’t exist; Jensen isn’t. He just has no defense to offer. He doesn’t know how to answer her questions. He doesn’t know what’s wrong, except for everything.
After a while they both give up on trying to smooth over their real problems and everything becomes a battle. Then Jensen screams back, that’s when it gets ugly. He can’t talk about what’s really wrong, but he has more than enough pent up anger to let loose. It’s not for Danneel, it’s mostly for himself, but he can’t exactly yell at himself and she’s there, as ready to argue over every stupid little thing as Jensen is. Jensen takes the bait and every night it’s something new until they can hardly be in the same room together unless they’re working.
Jared’s over all the time and Jensen doesn’t realize this could ever be annoying until she snaps during a fight and points it out. To Jensen it had been the only thing he had to look forward to about his day, coming home and knowing that he and Danneel wouldn’t argue while they had company. They would put on a show and be a strained shell of the happy couple Jared used to know them to be. It’s pretty lousy, but it’s the best they’ve been in months, maybe longer.
Jared isn’t as fooled as he pretends to be, but Jensen appreciates his efforts at playing along. He tries to give Jensen chances to talk about it and Jensen makes a point of ignoring them all. What the hell is Jensen going to say? “I don’t know how to be happy”? I’m ruining the best girl I ever had because she’s not perfect”? It’s enough that Jared understands without Jensen saying so, that he sympathizes—even though Jensen’s the one in the wrong. Jensen’s terrified to tell Jared why it’s not working. If Jared’s not on his side, Jensen won’t have anyone. He hasn’t been on his own side in three years.
Sometimes he can admit to himself that it would be better to cut loose. But Jensen remembers too well how much Danneel had meant to him, how much he’s capable of loving her. There was a time when everything that went wrong could be kissed away; Danneel had been responsible for the happiest period of Jensen’s life. Jensen can’t stop telling himself that she can bring that back, that one day he’ll remember how lucky he is and he’ll look back on this and be thankful that he waited this rough patch out.
That’s not fair to Danneel and Jensen knows it. She’s miserable, too, and sometimes she even asks what they’re doing together. Jensen always has an excuse ready. She’s as willing to grab onto any desperate answer as he is. There’s still enough love between them to keep them together, but Jensen starts to think this isn’t such a good thing. He’s seen couples remain together just for the sake of staying together. He’s seen people who loved each other well grow bitter and angry and begin to hate each other. Danneel was one of Jensen’s best friends before they were ever a couple and the idea that he could hate her hurts more than the fact that he’s ruined their marriage, more than anything. He has to let her go and he knows it.
They go to bed and she lies in his arms—it’s neutral ground. They have some unspoken agreement not to bring the ugly things with them when they go to bed. Even though their sex life is virtually nonexistent, Jensen still holds Danneel like she’s everything he has, regardless of how heated their fights were that day.
“Jensen?” He’s almost asleep when she whispers it, her voice is so hushed he almost thinks she didn’t want him to hear it.
“I need a reason to keep this up. I don’t want to fight anymore. But I need a good reason.”
Jensen gets what she’s saying. She needs him to set her free. Jensen finally decides to do the right thing by her.
“I don’t have one.”
He doesn’t think she’s surprised, but maybe the weight of it is what breaks her, breaks them both. Danneel turns her face into Jensen’s chest and he feels hot tears, hears her trying to quiet her sobs. He strokes her back soothingly, draws her in closer, apologizes—the words “I’m sorry” too inadequate to ever really capture what he wants to tell her. He doesn’t let himself cry, at least not loud enough for her to hear. He thinks she deserves a chance to mourn without having to think about him being hurt, too. He doesn’t deserve to be pitied.
Danneel doesn’t waste much time with him after that. She starts packing up the next day, has an apartment picked out in less than a week. Jensen thinks that she’s probably been looking for one for a while. She’s gone in 11 days and even though Jensen sees her all the time at work, he’s lost her enough that he has to wonder if they’ll ever even be able to be friends again. She doesn’t hate him, Jensen can tell. He thinks it would be easier if she did. But she’s hurt in every way she can be hurt, and Jensen’s not much better off, certainly not well enough to fix the damage he inflicted. Not yet. Someday, he hopes. He hasn’t been in love with her for a long time, but Jensen will always love her.
He doesn’t see Jared once in two weeks, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Jensen hardly leaves the house for those two weeks, doesn’t see anyone unless it’s at work. His brilliant plan is to continue to mope around by himself until he’s gotten enough of it out to fake happy or died of starvation. But in the end, Jensen gets lucky, because his best friend is nosy and persistent and impossible to hide from.
Jensen gets the divorce papers shortly after Danneel leaves. That day, Jared calls and immediately knows from the sound of his voice that something’s wrong. Jensen tells himself that he’s irritated when Jared comes over immediately and demands to be let in.
Jensen opens the door and gets a look at Jared’s worried expression for only a second before it morphs into something twice as concerned. Jensen wonders for the first time in days what he looks like. He must be a mess from the way Jared’s looking at him.
“Jensen, what’s…” Jared doesn’t finish asking. It would be a waste of breath. He knows the answer and how much it’s going to hurt Jensen to say it.
“I’m sorry. Jen, I’m so, so sorry.”
Jensen shrugs because no matter how much Jared means it, it won’t help. Jared follows Jensen inside, closes the door. Jensen doesn’t look at him. He doesn’t want Jared to feel sorry for him, or look at Jensen like seeing this is hurting him, too. Jensen’s already hurt everyone else.
“I’m sorry I haven’t called or anything. I…I wasn’t ignoring you on purpose.”
“I know,” Jared replies, because he doesn’t care and Jensen knew he wouldn’t, but he doesn’t have anything else to say. “I just wanted to make sure you were—“
“So. You get it now. Can you leave please? I’ll call you when I…” Jensen’s laugh is charged with venom. “When I’m feeling better.”
Jared doesn’t move. Jensen can’t focus enough to read his expression. He drops heavily onto the couch and stares at the floor.
“Seriously, Jared. I just want to be alone.”
“I know you do.”
“You’re still here.”
“I’m not leaving.”
“I don’t need you here, okay? I know you want to help me, and I appreciate it, really. I do. But you can’t. So just, please. Go?”
“Jensen, shut up. We don’t have to talk, but I’m not leaving.”
Jensen rolls his eyes, kind of adores Jared for being a stubborn asshole, even while he’s hating him for it. They sit and watch…Jensen doesn’t know what. Neither of them is actually paying attention. Jared is feeling sorry for Jensen and Jensen is feeling sorry for himself.
Jensen knows from the look in Jared’s eyes that he’s expecting Jensen to tell him what happened. Jensen feels bad keeping it from him, but he wants Jared to ask, and Jared never does.
“It was my fault, you know.”
“No it wasn’t.”
“You can’t say that. You don’t…” It sounds so ugly that Jensen can’t even get it out.
“No matter what happened, it wasn’t completely your fault, okay? It’s never just one person’s—”
“And you’re an expert, I guess.”
Jared looks like Jensen slapped him, but he doesn’t let Jensen win.
“Look, you don’t have to tell me what happened. Not yet. You can boss me around, and I’ll do whatever I can for you. But don’t hurt me just to be mean. You’ll regret it and it’s not going to get rid of me.”
“I’m sorry,” Jensen says. “I don’t know why I…I don’t know why I say anything anymore. All I do is fuck shit up.”
“No, seriously. I do. You know what happened with me and Danneel? I pushed her away and made her miserable for no reason, Jared. You know how much I loved her and I hurt her for no reason. And now I’m taking it out on you for no reason, too. Fuck.”
“There must have been—“
“No. You’re not getting me. I couldn’t be happy. I just couldn’t. She didn’t do anything wrong. She just tried to make me happy and the only thing she’s done that’s made me feel even marginally relieved in months was pack up, grab Icarus, and leave.”
“She took your dog?” Jared asks, as if it’s the only thing that registered. Jensen almost wants to laugh at how absurd the moment is, how sorry and terrified Jared’s expression is. It sends him back to a happier time, even if it’s only for a split second.
“She took everything except the house, man.”
Jared waits to see if Jensen has more to add. Jensen thinks Jared doesn’t believe that he’s giving him the full story. He wishes there was a way to really prove that the entire mess his life has turned into really is that ridiculous. When a few minutes pass without Jensen saying anything, Jared suddenly draws him into a tight, warm hug. Jensen relaxes into it and before he even realizes what he’s doing, he lets everything out, cries into Jared’s embrace until he has nothing left and he’s just shaking from the sheer effort.
Jared stays way longer than he should, but Jensen doesn’t know where the time goes. It’s much too soon when Jared leaves at midnight. He knows Jared will be back the next day as soon as he’s done with work, he knows he can depend on Jared from now on, and despite every instinct telling him to crawl into a ball and hide, Jensen decides to let Jared help him.
It’s like Sandy all over again, only Jared is much better at being a comforting presence than Jensen had been. Good thing, too. Jensen is in way worse shape than Jared was.
Even though Jensen had been living with Jared when he’d been dealing with his break-up, Jared somehow manages to provide more support to Jensen while living and working thirty minutes away than Jensen had. Jensen feels inadequate and guilty that he’d thought he was doing enough at the time. It’s just one more thing for him to be ashamed of.
Jared is inexhaustible and a part of Jensen really believes that Jared saved his life. He’s always there, always willing to offer more. Jensen is sour and mopey and yet, Jared smiles and jokes and brings things Jensen had forgotten about back into Jensen’s life. Sometimes Jensen thinks Jared is a saint, albeit a saint with $300 pants.
They spend so much time together that they become a “we” again. Jensen slips into it so easily that he doesn’t realize how weird it is for weeks. There were years when they had been JaredandJensen and it had made sense, no one questioned it. Jensen loses track of time, and he forgets sometimes that things are different now. Jared does, too.
“You okay there, man?” Jensen asks when he reaches the living room and finds Jared staring through the sliding door, mesmerized by something Jensen can’t see.
“Yeah. I’m having an epiphany.”
Jensen chuckles. “What kind of epiphany, dare I ask?”
Jared turns and pulls Jensen towards him, positioning him like a mannequin. Jensen’s standing where Jared had been a moment ago and Jared is pushed against his back, pointing out the window with his face awkwardly close to resting on Jensen’s shoulder. Jensen doesn’t complain.
“Ok, see that spot, right there?”
“With the bushes?”
“Yeah, only, without the bushes.”
“A ha. I don’t get it.”
“We take the bushes out, right? And extend the deck a few more feet and we can put in a bar, man. It’ll make parties fucking amazing; I don’t know why I never did it before! I’m starting next weeken—“ Jared freezes and pulls away and Jensen turns a confused look at him. “Wow, I’m such an asshole.”
“Why are you an asshole?”
“This is your house now, man. I can’t just stomp in here and decide to tear up your yard.”
Jensen swallows a lump. Sometimes he forgets that this isn’t Jared’s house, too, and when he remembers, he just wishes it were.
“So, Jared. I’ve been thinking of putting a bar in the backyard. Any chance you wanna help me out with that?”
Jared’s expression melts; Jensen even thinks he looks thankful.
“Yeah, sounds like a good idea.”
“Next weekend good for you?”
Jared rolls his eyes and punches Jensen lightly.
Jared does come over that weekend and sets to work immediately on turning Jensen’s yard inside out. It’s a mess, but it’s an excuse to spend the entire weekend together, and it’s welcome. Jared does most of the work, while Jensen hovers nervously and occasionally supplies lemonade. Jensen had forgotten how loudly Jared sings along to the radio while he’s doing physical work, and no memory could do justice to just how terrible it sounds. The dogs go out, roll in the dirt, and then come in and sit on Jensen’s furniture.
Jensen watches Jared from the kitchen on Sunday. He’s sweating in places humans aren’t supposed to sweat and doing some ridiculous dance to whatever’s on the radio (Jensen can’t hear it but he has a feeling of dread that it’s something by Lady Gaga or one of those Disney channel stars). Jared looks happy and Jensen can’t help feeling a little happy himself. He’s smiling until he realizes that Jared’s going to go home and pass out as soon as the sun starts to set. Jensen may not see him again for days depending on how busy they are. It’s wrong, he decides. Jared belongs here; the proof is in how right things are in that moment, how close Jensen gets to being okay.
Jared comes in around 5 and Jensen’s already ordered a pizza and taken out the beers, desperate to trap Jared for as long as he can manage. Jared smiles.
“Aww, sweetheart. You didn’t have to go to all that trouble for little ol’ me.”
“What can I say? I’m a provider.”
Jared snorts and grabs the biggest piece, pulling a pepperoni off Jensen’s slice just to add insult to injury.
“I fucking love that yard, man,” he says, Texas coming through stronger than he usually allows.
“I haven’t gone out there in weeks.”
Jared shakes his head sadly. “Disgraceful.”
“I will now that it’s apparently going to be a nonstop party complete with alcohol and easy supermodels…”
Jared laughs. “Who are you kidding? Knowing your lame ass it’s going to become a place for Chris and Steve to stash their drinks when they’re in town.”
“Tom probably counts as an easy supermodel,” Jensen points out and Jared concedes the point.
Jensen fidgets awkwardly at the table, drawing patterns on the surface with his fingers. He wants to ask Jared to move in so bad it’s about to spill out of him, but he can’t. Some stupid innate wall keeps choking him up.
“If you want to stay on the couch tonight, you know, since you’ve been drinking and everything, that would be totally cool.”
Jared looks at Jensen sideways; a little smile tugs at his lips.
“Man, you know who else misses that yard? Harley and Sadie. Did you see them running around out there? I sure wish they could be that happy all the time…” Jared reaches out and gives Jensen’s wrist a reassuring squeeze. “Don’t imagine you’re looking for someone to help out with the mortgage?”
Jensen’s heart gives a tiny a leap on Jared’s behalf, because he’s never had anyone always know exactly what to do and say to make him happy. Jensen never thought it would be wonderful to be so utterly predictable to someone.
“Yeah, I. That would be…” Jensen smiles. “Your room is just where you left it, you know.”
“You don’t have to move back downstairs, Jensen.” Jared laughs and Jensen blushes.
“I’ve actually…been back in the basement since Danneel left.”
Jared makes a face. “Why on Earth would you do that?”
“I don’t know. It felt wrong being in there alone. It’s not my room. It was your room, and then it was our room…I just didn’t feel welcome in there alone.”
Jared frowns and Jensen knows he’s back to worrying about Jensen and Danneel and how unhappy they had been in there. Jensen tries to shake the thoughts out of his own head.
“Move in quickly.”
Jared nods and by Friday, Jared and Jensen are roommates again. Jensen doesn’t really believe it until Jared sets a pack of M&M cookies in the kitchen cabinet and winks at him.
Saying that Jensen is happy as soon as Jared moves in is an overstatement, but sometimes it feels that way just because it’s so much closer than Jensen’s been to happy in so many years. Jared’s not someone who can easily be ignored. There’s always a reminder, often unpleasant, that someone is around for Jensen to depend on.
In a way it opens the old wounds up all over again. Living with Jared still doesn’t bother Jensen and he’s still one of the most problematic roommates Jensen’s ever had to put up with. Jensen tries his best to pin down what the real problem was with Danneel, but it never happens and eventually he has to quit trying to understand. He drives himself to insomnia fixating on everything that went wrong, but there’s never a question as to whether or not they should go back to their weird old habits and Jensen always sleeps better with an hour of good conversation and a midnight snack. He nearly tears up the first time he half-sleepwalks to the table and finds a fresh plate of sugar cookies, a mug of milk, and God he missed seeing that smile waiting up for him.
Jared and Jensen get so comfortable together that things would probably be weird if it wasn’t them. Physical affection becomes a part of how they interact again and, even though Jensen can’t seek it out, Jared is shameless about being That Guy, and Jensen is really past pretending he doesn’t like it. Jensen is still a mess, needs whatever Jared will give him, and Jared’s best at being hands-on. Maybe they touch more than they used to, maybe they brush against each other, or tangle too much on the couch, but Jensen never thinks it’s anything more than Jared’s way of reminding Jensen that he won’t go anywhere as long as Jensen needs him.
Jared decides to throw their first party after a month waiting for Jensen to do it. He invites some of the crew from Supernatural who still work in Vancouver, manages to convince Steve and Chris to come up for the weekend, and poor Tom’s still around, playing the same role he’s been playing since he was an infant and will still be playing when his grandchildren have grandchildren. It’s looking like it’ll be a pretty good time. Jensen’s not really up to partying again, but Jared promises it’ll only be good friends and Jensen trusts Jared to know if he’s ready or not. Jensen trusts Jared better than himself about everything lately.
Jensen probably shouldn’t put stock in Jared’s preferred form of therapy (“Beer and steak will fix anything, grasshopper,” as Jared had once informed Jensen before tripping over the back of someone’s couch and breaking their coffee table), but at least this one time, it works. Jensen is glad to hang out with his friends again. He’s been locking himself up and not seeing anyone except co-workers and Jared for the months since the divorce and damn did Jensen forget how much he likes his dumb, asshole friends.
He walks into the kitchen to get another beer and finds Jared talking to Steve. They’re giggling like little girls, which puts Jared at about a 3 on the drunkenness scale, and Steve at around 9. Jensen really hopes he hasn’t been trying to match Jared on alcohol intake. They’re talking about sports, which leads Jensen to assume that whatever they’re laughing at is not actually particularly funny.
He comes up to the counter and grabs a bottle of Stella, then decides to stick around and try to follow Steve and Jared’s drunken logic. He leans into Jared because Jared is resting against the counter closest to Jensen and it just seems like the easiest, most logical solution. Jared puts an arm over Jensen’s shoulder like it’s the most natural thing in the world and keeps on talking. Jensen thinks it’s hockey he’s going on about. Or maybe football. Or water polo. Jensen has had a lot to drink.
Steve’s face kind of shifts for a moment and he stares from Jared to Jensen. Jared’s still rambling on and Jensen’s pretty sure no one’s listening, but that’s never stopped Jared before. Steve smiles privately and pats Jensen reassuringly on the shoulder.
“Hey, good for you, man,” he says, before picking his drink up off the counter and leaving Jared and Jensen alone in the kitchen.
“What was that about?” Jared asks through a snort.
“No idea,” Jensen says. “Steve is a weird dude.”
Jensen feels Jared nodding his agreement. He closes his eyes and rests his head against his best friend’s chest. Jared smells good and his shirt is soft and Jensen is starting to get very, very sleepy.
The next morning, Jensen wakes up happy. Not just thinking he’s happy—Jensen is genuinely happy. The sun is shining in his face and he’s decidedly hungover, but the painful rays are also comfortably warm and Jensen can remember that he had a good enough time last night for it to be worth this. He hasn’t woken up in this good a mood in ages—if he’s ever in a good mood, it’s generally after hours of Jared working for it.
Jensen shifts a little and realizes he’s not alone in bed. Someone is holding on to him and, God damn, it feels nice. He’s been sleeping alone for months after years thinking that he would always have someone to wrap himself up in, so yeah, it’s a welcome change. Suddenly it hits him that the person he’s cuddled up against is extremely male and, seeing as how he sleeps in a basement, the sun should not be waking him up. Jensen’s thought process isn’t at its sharpest the morning after he and thirty other people drink an entire bar dry.
He sits up slowly, terrified by what he’ll open his eyes to. He’s relieved when it’s a familiar room and an even more familiar face. So he fell asleep with Jared last night. No big deal. Or, wait. That kind of is a big deal. A huge one, even. He fell asleep on top of his best friend and it was the best night he can remember since he got married.
There was a time when Jensen considered himself an intelligent guy, but this is a shamefully stilted thought process, even for a moron. He has that overwrought movie moment where everything flashes in front of his eyes and, oh. Okay. He’s a little denser than he’d realized.
If Jensen was thinking clearly, he might have paused to reconsider what he was doing for more than a second, and then he definitely wouldn’t have gone through with it. But it’s been established that Jensen is not thinking clearly at all. He’s just noticed something kind of huge about his life, and it makes perfect sense to him that he should share it with Jared immediately. He shares everything with Jared, doesn’t he?
“Hey, dude, dude. Wake up.”
Jared makes a content sound and smiles at Jensen through sleepy eyes.
“Mornin’,” he drawls. “Yeah, I’m up. I’m up. I’m…bah, my head hurts. I’m so not up.”
“Jay, listen to me, you have to wake up. I’ve got to tell you something. You’re going to think it’s a joke, but I need you to take it really seriously, okay?”
Jared tenses up and reaches out to Jensen immediately. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s…I mean, I don’t think it’s wrong…well, basically, umm. Jared, I think we’re in love.”
Jensen can see that Jared’s about to laugh, but he changes his mind when he catches the glare Jensen gives him. He pauses and considers it seriously for all of twelve seconds before his face lights up in a way Jensen can only describe as adorable and his eyes go from half-closed with sleep to wide-awake and bigger than Jensen’s ever seen them.
“Oh, wow. That…really makes sense.”
“Yeah.” Jared tilts his head a little and looks at Jensen closely. “That’s weird.”
“You’d think we’d have noticed that.”
“No warning signs. Whatsoever.”
“Do you think we…?” Jared gestures awkwardly at Jensen and then at himself and makes the universal sign for “doing it” with his hands.
“Close your eyes and picture it for a second.”
Jared does. Jensen watches his breath go shallow, just like his own had when he woke up to the image, and when Jared opens his eyes, he looks at Jensen like there’s something new about him.
“Oh god, man.” Jared scrubs a hand over his face and sits up to face Jensen. “What the hell do we do now?”
As if Jensen has an answer to that. He settles for taking off for his own room and hiding from the issue until both he and Jared are at least capable of thinking clearly.
Jensen spends the majority of his day downstairs, trying to make sense of what just happened. He’s in love with Jared, maybe has been for years, maybe that’s why things were so good when they were good and so bad when they were bad. It doesn’t just match up with his marriage. Those last happy years had been full of Jared and maybe it was his absence that made things go sour. Jensen thought his problem had been with Danneel, but he’s rapidly coming to see that anyone other than Jared would have been just as wrong.
So, it shouldn’t be a problem. Jensen loves Jared and Jared loves Jensen and they’re both single, consenting adults. Jensen thinks it should be unfairly easy to make that work. He and Jared have always worked and it never took much effort on their parts to make that true. All they have to do is figure out how to get things rolling and it’ll be all glitter and rainbows and gay pride parades. Except it’s not that easy, it never is. Jensen should have learned that by now.
Jensen’s sitting at the dining room table, looking over the long, detailed speech on his index cards. He’s going to ask Jared out and present a nice, logical argument as to why this is the best thing to do. He’s freaking out again. Jensen hates dating, always has. He thought he was done with this.
Jared comes into the room and Jensen freezes up instantly.
Jensen swallows nervously. He looks down at his cards, shuffles the deck. He stutters out nothing and completely blanks on the simple words “Will you go out with me?”
Jared plops into the chair across from him casually and smiles.
“So, wanna go on a date Friday night?”
It’s a lot less impressive than the way Jensen would have asked (had he been able to ask at all), but it gets the job done. They see each other briefly over the week, which is pretty status quo. Nothing really changes between them. Jensen decides that is a very good sign.
Jensen gets home early on Friday and spends entirely too long getting ready. He doesn’t even really know why he bothers. Jared’s seen him in basically every state of dress in existence, it’s not like he doesn’t know what Jensen looks like at his red carpet best and at his “I just woke up and shouldn’t have gone for that last shot of tequila” worst.
Besides, Jensen reminds himself. You’re both guys. Nobody is going to care what the other person is wearing.
He lets this logic win out. After two hours running around trying to look good, Jensen undoes all of his progress, changes out his dress pants for nice jeans and quickly washes all the styling crap out of his hair. Jared always liked low maintenance girls.
He gets upstairs and waits around for Jared to come out of his room for too long. Jared doesn’t answer when he knocks on the door and Jensen double checks his watch with the clocks on the shelves, makes sure he isn’t screwing something up.
“I’m sorry. I’m late. I was, umm, I…”
Jensen looks up from staring at his hands and loses his breath for a second. He blanches and wants to hide, because Jared is dressed up and clean cut and gorgeous. Because Jared obviously put some effort into getting ready and Jensen feels terribly unprepared. Jared probably thinks he didn’t care or try at all, which is exactly the opposite of what happened. Jensen just didn’t want to get upstairs and look like an idiot for getting fancy over dinner with Jared, as if they haven’t done it a million times.
“Oh,” is all Jensen says. Jared looks down at himself awkwardly, then throws a glance back in the direction of his room. They stand there staring at each other passively like two fish in opposite bowls. It’s not a good start to the night.
“I got us a reservation at Morton’s,” Jared finally offers.
“Hey, awesome. I love that place.”
Jared smiles, but it’s tight and doesn’t reach his eyes. “I know.”
Jensen stands up and approaches him, but doesn’t get closer than the middle of the room before he stops.
“Should I…umm, put on something else? I didn’t think we were gonna—“
“No, I. Wasn’t trying to…you look go—” Jared brings his hand up and rubs the back of his neck shyly. “I’m overdressed.”
“Maybe a little.”
“Maybe a lot.”
“Let’s just…balance each other out?”
Jensen shrugs and goes with it.
It’s not Jensen’s worst date ever, not by a long shot. But the fact that it’s Jared, that they’re in love and should be having the time of their lives, makes it glaringly obvious that it is definitely not a good one. The ride to the restaurant is quiet. A few times, Jensen tries pointing out things they pass and saying something about it, but it just seems pointless. Jared knows everything he knows about Vancouver. The same logic leaves their conversation over dinner equally bland. Jensen has none of the usual “getting to know each other” things to tell Jared and Jared has nothing to tell him. They can’t talk about the things they usually discuss at dinner—those were conversations between friends and the whole point of this is to not just be friends anymore.
Jensen doesn’t know how to sit or stand or talk all night. He doesn’t know how to balance the Jensen he is when he’s trying to impress a girl with the Jensen Jared knows. And Jensen’s pretty sure Jared hasn’t been so insecure since he left high school and stopped being a gangly nerd.
By the time they get home, Jensen’s ready to call it a night, maybe to never leave his room and face Jared again. He feels like he failed at meeting any of Jared’s expectations from the moment he chose to go with jeans over khaki.
He doesn’t even know how to end the damn thing. Usually there’s such a nice, easy divide on a first date. You walk her to the door; you maybe go in for a good night kiss if you think it went well. Jensen has to follow Jared into the house and, what? Does he wait for Jared to go in and then trail at a distance? Does he dash for the basement or does he follow Jared to his room and find out the answers to the questions that have been keeping him at teenage levels of sexually frustrated for almost a week? Jensen doesn’t think it went well, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting.
He goes for the cop out option, walks a few steps behind Jared, lingers and waits for his friend’s familiar body language to give away what he wants Jensen to do. Jared is wound up and he doesn’t move so much as a finger in a way that’s familiar enough to Jensen to be helpful.
“So this was…”
“Yeah,” Jared agrees. Neither of them was going to say fun.
“Do you think we should do it ag—?”
“Jen, can I try something really fast?”
Jensen nods and, within moments, Jared’s in his space, one hand on the back of his neck. He presses his lips against Jensen’s—there’s pressure for less than a second, but Jared doesn’t really pull back, he just waits right up close to Jensen’s face for Jensen to tell him to stop. Jensen opens his mouth instead and Jared takes the invitation.
It’s the first time Jensen’s had a truly good kiss in at least a year and he deepens it greedily, tongue seeking out the taste of steak and good wine, trying to acquaint himself with one of those rare parts of Jared that he doesn’t know as well as he knows himself. Jared makes the hottest sounds Jensen’s ever heard when he kisses and Jensen can’t believe how badly he wants to know what other noises he can drag out of him. He can’t believe he doesn’t know them already. He’s been friends with Jared for nearly ten years, they should have been doing this from the first time they saw each other.
Jared pulls away after a good, long time and Jensen thinks maybe that’s it. They’ll say goodnight and Jensen will jerk off desperately and try not to say Jared’s name loud enough for Jared to hear it upstairs. Maybe they’ll do this again sometime. Maybe they’ll do more. Or maybe Jared will remember how awful the date was in the morning and Jensen will never get a chance to redeem himself. But Jared doesn’t seem ready to let it rest at that.
Jared nudges at the side of Jensen’s face demandingly and Jensen obeys, turns and exposes his neck to what ends up being more of a bite than a kiss. Jared pulls Jensen closer and works his mouth on Jensen’s skin and Jensen wonders how he hasn’t spontaneously combusted yet, it’s so hot.
“Wanna…” Jared mumbles, pulling away and looking at Jensen intently. Whatever he sees in Jensen’s face, it must be what he was looking for, because Jared pushes Jensen back a few steps until he hits the wall hard and before Jensen can ask what he’s going to do, Jared falls onto his knees in front of him.
Jensen hears himself make a surprised, hungry sound, but he doesn’t feel it leave his mouth. All he feels is Jared, hand trying to wrap around Jensen through denim. Jensen is already hard and, if he’s being honest, not too far from losing it right there in his jeans.
Jared’s hands don’t hesitate; he works at Jensen’s belt and undoes his pants, all the while looking up at Jensen with dark, lidded eyes and his mouth open, lips obscenely wet.
He pulls down and exposes Jensen and then he just stares for a moment or two.
“Jensen,” he gasps, voice low and scratchy and somehow still the gentle tone he used to coax Jensen into feeling better when Jensen thought nothing would ever make him feel better again. “I want. Oh, God, your cock. I want you to fuck my mouth. Hard, okay? Wanna feel you hit the back of my throat.”
Jensen’s sure it’s a bad idea—he won’t be able to control himself if Jared lets him take control—but he can’t deny anything Jared asks for right now, least of all that. He nods and watches Jared open his lips around him and, fuck, Jensen knew Jared had a big mouth, but this is just ridiculous.
Jared takes him all the way in before he gives Jensen a chance to do anything, and Jensen realizes that this is definitely not the first time Jared’s had a mouth full of cock. He grabs Jared’s hair and tangles his fingers in it and Jared’s hands push up under Jensen’s shirt, his fingers burning against Jensen’s chest. Jared moans and it shakes Jensen’s body and Jensen thinks that’s his cue, so he pulls back and gives a tentative thrust into Jared’s hot, wet mouth. Jared doesn’t complain, Jensen thinks the look in his eyes is defiant, a challenge. “Is that the best you can do?” Jensen fucks fast and hard into him, proving he can definitely do better.
Jensen sees Jared’s eyes welling up but he can’t stop or slow down and from the way Jared’s moaning around his dick, Jensen thinks Jared gets off on that as much as he does.
“Jared, oh my—Jesus,” Jensen pants, losing his ability to think when Jared grabs his ass and pulls his mouth up the length of Jensen’s cock slowly, tongue swirling over the head. That would be too much for Jensen to take, even if it hadn’t been way too long since he got laid. He doesn’t even get a chance to warn Jared, but Jared knows and takes Jensen back into his mouth enthusiastically, swallowing Jensen’s come with less trouble than most of the girls he’s fucked.
When Jared finally pulls away, he’s breathing hard and he lets his head rest against Jensen’s hip for a few seconds as he recovers himself. He’s still holding onto Jensen like he’ll drown if he lets go and Jensen runs a hand through his hair softly, trying to get over it as well. When Jared stands up, he makes eye contact with Jensen and slowly, deliberately reaches down to touch himself.
For a moment, Jensen is terrified he’s gonna come like that, hand shoved into his boxers and still covered up.
Let me see you, Jensen thinks, eyes fixed on Jared’s crotch. Oh, God, please let me see.
Jared is either thinking of not ruining his very expensive pants, or he hears Jensen’s silent prayer. Whichever it is, he lets them drop to the floor and just stands there for a moment, smirking at Jensen like he knows all the things Jensen wants him to do with that big, swollen cock. Jared wraps his wrist around it and starts to fuck into his hand. Jensen wonders if it’s as heavy as it looks, if he’d be able to handle it down his throat like Jared could handle him, how nice it would be to let it split him open and ride the thrusts Jared’s pushing into his fist.
Jared closes the distance between them, kisses Jensen, and presses his body as close as he can manage without compromising his ability to jerk off. His other hand rests on Jensen’s hip and it’s not long at all before he moans into Jensen’s mouth and Jensen knows Jared finished because there’s come sliding down his legs as well as Jared’s fist and it’s not his—he can taste his.
Jared lets go of him when he’s done, but he doesn’t step out of Jensen’s space, he doesn’t really seem to know where to go from there. Jensen suddenly feels awkward again.
He waits for Jared to make a joke about Jensen being an easy first date, wonders if he should make it, but neither of them does. They just stand there: too close, quiet, confused.
“Do you, umm…wanna…come to bed with me?” Jared offers and Jensen’s not sure how he means it. It doesn’t sound terribly enthusiastic. He wants to say yes, even if it’s just to get back the feeling of peace he had when he was lying in Jared’s arms. He’s terrified to do it, terrified he’ll be as disappointed tomorrow morning as he was by their date. He can’t stand letting it be ruined.
“I don’t wanna wake you up tomorrow. I have to, umm, errands. Early day.”
Jared smiles a little, Jensen wonders if he’s disappointed and just gotten so good at acting that he can even hide it from Jensen.
“Yeah, of course, man.” He steps back, gives Jensen room to escape, and then leans on the wall Jensen had been pressed against a few minutes earlier. “Have a good night.”
On to Part Three