Summary: A J2 adaption of 1996's Fear, written for spn_cinema . "Together forever. Or else."
Word Count: 30k - Complete in 3 parts.
Warning: underage, serial killer, mild? insanity, a gross misuse of romance
Notes: Doesn't follow the movie entirely, some scenes out of order. And David McCall is greatly exaggerated.
First J2 fic I'm posting; nails are little bloody stubs. Anxiety, fuck off :(
Jared is almost thirteen when his parents split up. It isn't news, isn't devastation. He saw it coming.
Jared is fifteen when he becomes a newly minted product of a single parent household - permanently. No more weekend switches or alternating bedrooms. He doesn't skip his lunch period to go sit on dried grass, eating his sandwich and talking to a slab of concrete like it's listening. Couldn't even if he wanted to; it's not within walking distance anymore.
He's sixteen when everything changes and the things that used to make sense to him start mattering less and less. He's sixteen when he meets Jensen.
There’s a big difference in waking up on a too-small, too-stiff, uncomfortable mattress and being greeted by walls painted the most basic shade of white a weekend or two out of every month and waking up in such conditions day after day on a never ending cycle of bland cruelty.
There’s an even bigger difference when it used to just be known as the guest room and now it has a title and an occupant of its very own.
Prisoner’s a better word, Jared thinks blearily as he shoves the toothbrush around in his mouth, blinking into the tiny mirror over the tiny sink in the tiny bathroom down the hall from his room. His tiny room. His tiny room. God. Even after all this time, he still can't get used to it.
The divorce itself had little effect on him, too focused on his own life to let his parents' fallout disrupt him. Too focused on things like keeping his grades up while devoting the rest of his spare minutes to his theatre group, helping with the lighting, the set, sometimes even toying with the idea of auditioning for a bit part. Just like, as an extra. Or a prop, whatever. He’d actually almost tried out for the role of swaying willow tree once. Luckily, his dignity woke up from whatever coma it’d been stuck in for the whole twenty seven hours he spent debating it.
Not that it even matters anymore. His new school doesn’t have half the things his old one on the NorthEast side did – not even a student parking lot — let alone a decent drama club.
He hadn’t moved states when the house was sold and the funeral was over, hell he hadn’t even moved cities, but, well. But there was a daycare attached to the side of the campus, which really – in his opinion – spoke volumes for just how far from his own Kansas he really was. Downtown San Antonio might’ve been known for its tourist friendly scenery and sure, it could have even been fun when he was younger. But the school district right smack dab therein was more or less not as cute.
All of the ghetto, none of the fabulous. And that was putting it in the nicest way Jared could manage. It wasn’t exactly the dream of a lifetime, not even to a curious sixteen year old, but Jared’s a good kid, hell, he’s a great kid. His parents always reminded him of that. He quietly learned to make do.
At 8:09 a.m., he’s showered, dressed and has just enough time to scarf down a couple slices of toast as he shuffles out of the kitchen, backpack flung over one shoulder.
“I’m leaving, dad!” he shouts to no direction in particular.
He hears a muffled reply from somewhere in their home and smiles. He's still wiping breadcrumbs from his chin when he shuts the door on his way out, a beat up ass old car idling out by the sidewalk already waiting for him.
“The fuck took you, man,” Mikey grumbles before the rusty door has even fully slammed shut. “Finally figured out all the neat tricks your dick does?”
“Aww, what? You know your mom helped me with that years ago,” Jared says with little interest. His seatbelt clicks into place and he leans back to better see Alicia, waves. “Been here long?”
“A full minute,” she tells him.
By 8:20 a.m., they’ve found a place to park that doesn’t require feeding a meter and start the short walk to the campus Jared’s been slowly adjusting to for the better part of the school year. On the way, Mikey jabs him in the ribs and juts his chin out to where a homeless guy in a long out of date Spurs shirt proclaiming NBA Champions 1999 is taking a piss on the side of an abandoned pharmacy, adding his own graffiti to the mix. Jared can't fight back the small sigh, knowing the transitioning phase for him still has a long, long way to go.
Second period will never be his favorite class. Even if he’s not so bad at Latin, really, other inconveniences place it real far down on the totem pole.
Inconveniences with shoulder length red hair, bright blue eyes and more low cut tank tops in one week than Jared’s seen since the last time he ate at Hooters. Her name is Candice and she sits right next to him on his left. By now, he knows what flavor gum she always chews – because everyday she offers him some. He knows the exact color scheme of her bra of the day – because she’s forever being courteous enough to lean over excessively. And he definitely knows she wants him to ask her out – because she drops hints about studying together and the library and last week, she gave him her phone number.
Jared lost it the same day and not even on purpose.
Candice is a sweet girl. She smiles at everyone, volunteers to write assignments up on the board for Mr. Hough and takes notes for others when they’re absent. And according to Mikey, she totally puts out.
Which is cool and all really but..
The thing is, Jared doesn’t. Put out. Or at least, he hasn't before.
And just the way she says his name, makes it sound like a sleazy pick up line, even with her coy lash batting eyes and cute lip bites. Put together, all it really does is make time tick by slower and make him wish he’d taken Spanish instead.
At 12:14 p.m., they’re screeching and sputtering to a halt, Mikey yanking up the hand brake two seconds after a nearly suicidal parallel park. Jared’s honestly impressed every time the old clunker actually starts up, as much wear and tear, abuse and misuse as it gets.
His precalc class starts in under an hour, something he’s wheedled into the conversation at least five times since they left the school during lunch period, but he seems to be the only one who gives a what about it. Even Alicia, who always sides with him over pretty much anyone, is giving him the puppydog twinkly eyes.
The pound of mascara and gleaming septum ring kind of kill the overall presentation, though.
“We won’t make it back in time."
But he lets himself be dragged behind.
The wide black sign adorning the old brick building boasts The Cove and Jared eyes it dubiously for a few seconds, knowing full well this isn’t the sort of thing his dad gives him lunch money for. His friends though, again, aren’t even close to working up the charitable motions to give a quarter of a shit.
Mikey leers at him as he holds the door open for them, gesturing into a bow with great flourish. “This is the last time you’ll ever be this young,” he says, philosophical as only the purest of stoners can be. “Math ain’t goin’ nowheres, my friend.”
And with that, he kicks the seat of Jared’s pants and follows them in.
“It’s not just math,” Jared starts to say, indignant, but clams up the second he takes in his surroundings.
Or lets them take him in.
He’s never been in a place like this before in his life, he’s sure of it. Thinks he’d definitely remember it if he had.
For one thing, it’s like Woodstock reincarnated right there in the joint, pulsing music streaming out from what has got to be seventy speakers, bare minimum. The noise of a thousand conversations is almost – almost – enough to compete with it though, a chorus of laughter ringing out from somewhere close by. Nearly all of the tables are occupied and it almost feels like the room itself is living, so much going on at once.
A long bar sits to the right, oddly decorated but clean, and a line of tattered stools are all in use, well loved.
The fixtures though, don’t even begin to touch on the characters milling about.
An old man in a cowboy hat is rolling up the sleeves of his tie dye shirt while loudly telling a story about a rave he attended that ended with four near deaths but no fatalities. Last week. The lady beside him is wearing a kimono and quite happily. Jared watches them hook elbows and chug some orange concoction in a tangle of limbs, clumsily shaking hands afterwards and exchanging names.
By the time they make it to the counter to order, Jared is witness to hair in every color found in the candy store he frequents at the mall and every different shape, too. Teased, buzzed, 'hawked.
Gawking is rude, he knows that. But he's fascinated. People like this didn't exactly litter the streets by his cul-de-sac in the old neighborhood.
He’s mainly been following his kidnappers around by the invisible leash and glancing around in half-curiosity. It’d be full, but only if he let himself admit maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to come out after all. Maybe. Hell if he’s about to do that, though. Out loud anyway.
Some free love guy in beat up Vans almost knocks Jared over when he rushes by and says sorry amigo about five times despite most likely having never had a tan in his life, and then hands him some scrap of paper that he proudly mentions is recyclable before taking off to wherever he'd been in such a hurry to get to.
"Yo! Tiny Tim, whatcha having?" Mikey's snapping his fingers in his face and Jared comes back to life.
"What's good here?"
Mikey grins conspiratorially, loops his arm around Jared's neck and leans over the counter to tell the chick something. She scribbles away at her pad messily, giving them both the thumbs up but Jared didn't hear a word either of them said, still too caught up in sight seeing like a small tot at the zoo.
“What’s this, hmm?”
A bony hip bumps at his and Alicia snicks the flyer or whatever right out of Jared’s hand. It’s only then that he even remembers about the damn thing.
He takes a moment to scan The Cove’s contents, eyes his friends – Mikey with his Pantera beanie on when it’s 95 degrees out and pants sagging past his ass, Alicia in her scuffed up twenty eye Doc Martens and blonde dreadlocks – and figures that hey, maybe they aren’t so out of place really.
Well, them anyway.
Suddenly ever aware of his flip flops and camo cargo shorts, Jared feels like a giant red, throbbing sore thumb. He’d be a little more embarrassed about his polo if the tag was visible. Nobody needs to know it was purchased at The Gap. Jared’s never felt even remotely weird about that sort of thing in his life. Except right now, he totally does.
“Oh dudes, show tonight at the Rabbit!”
Mikey releases his hold on Jared and scoots in closer to get a look at the paper and Jared notices for the first time the band playing on the small stage at the rear. Okay so, not an army of speakers but whatever. He was close enough.
“No fuckin’ way, look at the line up,” Mikey says and shoves the paper in Jared’s face. “Pink Ribbon Scars. Hell to the yes, you’re so coming. No excuses.”
Jared scrunches his face and shrugs. “North St. Mary’s? Where’s that even at? That asscrumb shack over by Ashby?”
Alicia gasps as though slapped; Mikey clutches his chest.
“Shack?! Take it back, you cold heartless heathen.”
“That’s sacred, man.” Mikey agrees, shaking his head. “No one disses the Rabbit.”
“Yeah, okay. I'm repenting on the inside. But you guys'll just have to live the ‘good life’ for me, dicks out and tits up or whatever y'all say."
"Dude. No. Fuck that. You have to come. Two words - Pumpkins cover band. You can't miss that, you just can't. It goes against nature."
"Wouldn't that be three words?" Jared swats at a cloud of smoke. "Anyway, can’t do shit tonight, remember?”
Jared blinks tiredly.
“Oh, right right. Your monthly male bonding ritual date, huh?”
He flicks the side of Mikey's face with a hard pop. “It’s Rampage, I have to. You know my dad loves that stuff..” It's not like he aches to go or anything, but it doesn't matter. They’re already staring at him like he just said he couldn’t come out and play because there's a science fair project due. Then again, what he did say is almost just as lame. He holds in the sigh.
Yep. Jared knows that with a sad, vivid clarity.
“Gross. Hockey.” Alicia smacks her lips in overdone distaste. “I’d rather start eating red meat again. Like fresh roadkill.”
A gust of wind that doesn’t even feel like it belongs anywhere in Texas comes through just then and Jared’s momentarily sucked out of whatever pity party he’s considering throwing for himself, a loud, raucous group trickling in from the side door. A door he hadn’t even noticed before. He sees the outside tables just visible over the top of one of the guy’s shoulders and gives it a quick once over but just barely. He’s distracted by what’s now inside and isn’t so much concerned with the great outdoors or whatever the fuck lays back there.
They’re boozy and all over the place, just a few feet shy of where Jared and his friends are standing.
“Your turn, Dez,” one of them says and shoves some scrawny dude with a goatee, Dez apparently, to the register on the other side of Jared. “Your ass lost. Fair’s fair.”
The rest turn and wander over to the bar area, Jared hardly paying attention to Alicia mumbling something about cardboard tampons being invented by a male. He thinks there might even be a full conversation taking place without him but he doesn’t have the chance to turn around before Dez with the goatee who’s now in his bubble of space is displaying ear numbing whistling abilities.
“Jenny! Lone Star,” he calls out, gesturing with his thumb and pinky out.
For a second, Jared’s actually trying to figure out who he’s talking to because out of the lot of them, he can’t spot a single chick. He’s also trying to not look too obvious while he scopes them out but in the end, it doesn’t matter anyway because one of the guys stops walking for just a second, turns around and nods. He doesn’t say anything to Dez.
Weird name for a guy.
Leaning with his back against the small counter, Jared actually tries repositioning his stance, aiming for casual and aloof and missing the target exceptionally. He just feels wrong. Like he might need to look cooler, just for this one instance right now. Then he can go back to being a dud. He isn't even sure why but it feels crucial. There’s a split second, just as Jared's tossing his hair out of his eyes and bending one knee, when Jenny The Guy’s gaze shifts from Dez over just a little to the right and then Jared is being outright noticed. Looked at, even.
He feels like he should do something other than stand there like he's made of stone, universal chin jut or shit, anything, but he doesn’t. He can’t. This dude is just so.. so.. well, he’s just so.
Dressed in ratty jeans with a hole in one knee, tight where it counts and loose everywhere else, a fitted black v neck sticking even closer to his body from the heat – Jared loves the South, always has, yes sir – and black work boots that Jared hardly sees because he has all of the rest to take in.
He stares at Jared, hard, and then it's over. Soon, too soon, the back of his head has replaced that face and he's retreating into the distance and the whole exchange, if it can even be called that, lasts a grand total of three seconds and Jared feels a little breathless despite that. He doesn’t even give a fuck.
“Who’sat? Friend of yours?”
Jared closes his dried up mouth and swallows a few times before shaking his head. “Nah, no one I know.”
“Woe,” Alicia butts in, handing their pulled together funds over to the girl distractedly when their food is up, and Jared’s about to object. He is not in woe. Hell, he’s not even bummed, what the fuck, but he stops when he sees her line of sight.
“Whoa,” she says again and this time, Jared hears it clearly for what it is. “Hot. I oughta go see if he charges.”
“Like you could afford it if he did,” Jared rolls his eyes, but he feels strange when he says it. Can’t pinpoint the exact vibe that washes over him; isn’t sure he wants to.
Food all boxed up and dispersed into plastic bags, they leave then. But not before he sneaks one last look back over his shoulder and almost drops the only thing he’d have to show for being late to precalc when he finds someone watching him closely, a familiar flyer in between their fingers and either Jared’s drunk by proximity of everyone else or that Jenny guy just lifted his lips a little, an almost smile tilting his mouth as he watches Jared go.
Back out on the street, Jared has never hated hockey more. “Fuckin’ Rampage,” he says. Nobody hears him.
By 12:53 p.m., Jared's internally playing off that weird roll his stomach keeps giving as his body’s way of trying to warn him against his to-go order of shrimp tacos with extra avocado. They get back to school a little after one and even he doesn’t buy it. Not entirely.
"Oh yeah and it's actually dicks up and tits out," Mikey says just then, like that has anything to do with anything.
His last period of the day goes by in the same way as the one before it, and the one before that, and the one before that – depressingly slow and all with him chewing on his pen cap, trying to determine the exact number of people he’s ever known with green eyes. He isn’t sure, settles on less than four but even so, they were never the sort of green that left an impression. Not like…
The bell rings and he gives up pretending to study.
“Babycakes!” Alicia squeals in his ear the second he emerges in the hallway. That’s what he gets for having an entire foot almost on anyone in the place. She plants a wet kiss to the side of his face and pouts and sobs a little more over his absence she swears she can already feel from tonight’s show.
They drop him off just outside of his apartment complex and by then, Jared’s loathe to get out, thinking of all the fun they’ll have without him, going out, doing things, meeting people. Jared wants to meet … people.
Alicia waves like it’s a tearful goodbye, Mikey throws him the finger. Jared unlocks his door and heads inside to wait for his dad to get home, telling himself it’s not a big deal. There will be other nights. There will. Of course.
He even says it out loud to sound extra convincing.
Four hours, two bags of Cheetos and a bowl of Ramen later, Jared’s flipping through the channels, agitated, wondering just when the hell his dad plans on coming home. By now, the game’s already started but if they leave soon, they can still catch most of it.
He’s watching an old slasher film, one of his favorites, when his bladder starts insisting he show it some mercy.
When he gets back, the phone is ringing but Jason is about to decapitate someone and the scream that gets croaked out just before it happens is awful. And not as in gruesome and bone chilling. Awful as in someone better have gotten a pay cut for that shit.
Still bothered by it as many times as he's seen it, Jared, paused in a half step and still watching the TV, swears under his breath that he could pull off a part like that, no sweat. And probably even take Jason out. Not die like a little bitch. He’s still cussing inside his own head when he hears the beep of the machine picking up. Damn.
"Son. If you need to order a pizza, card info is on the fridge…"
Jared hustles over to the phone in the other room, debates picking it up.
"….should’ve called sooner but I got wrapped up here at work, picked up some overtime since…"
Decides against it. Stands there and listens, growing more annoyed by the second.
"…I’ll make it up to ya, bud. Next weekend, it’s your pick…"
Jared listens until the end, waits until his dad hangs up and makes a split second decision that when he’s being truthful, had been in the back of his mind all night. Or maybe all of it. He calls Mikey.
“You gonna fuck her or do I have to?”
Jensen turns and leaves the back room, not even bothering to reply to that. He can hear Morgan slurring something about having to do everything around here but he doesn’t even stick around long enough to lift his brow. There’s enough time and free space for him to make it over and land a quick blow to the temple. Or windpipe. But he doesn’t do it.
Friends don’t maim idiot friends, that's his mantra, after all. Or at least what he’s using most often to get through the days.
Besides, let Morgan think what he wants. Fuck whoever he wants. The girl’s not even that cute and Jensen has seen the inside of every bathroom stall in the place one too many times. Both genders. The stink of old urine doesn’t discriminate and even the guarantee of a quick fuck he never has to see again isn’t enough to make him want it.
He wouldn’t even be here tonight had it not been for an unidentified nagging he’d felt, hoping that maybe if he came, maybe if he searched hard enough, maybe, on an off chance…
But Jensen’s been here for two hours now and aside from the usual crowds and a couple of uninteresting new faces, nothing has jumped out at him. Nothing that would warrant a double take. Not like earlier.
It’s nearly 10:30 and there’s only so much wandering he can do before the White Rabbit starts to feel like something he should’ve skipped out on. A Dos Equis in one hand and emptiness behind his eyes, he almost misses it entirely.
Some guy he thinks he can remember seeing earlier during the day, sagging pants and an obnoxious laugh, walks into the building and weaves his way through the maze of bodies but Jensen barely notices him this time around. Again. It’s the other person with him that’s stopped him dead, makes him sag against a pillar plastered with overlapping colorful flyers boasting upcoming shows. It’s the tall kid with the hair that he keeps sweeping back off his forehead and the sort of cheekbones that were made to be obsessed over.
Jensen watches him and he waits.
He could make his way over, introduce himself, shake the kid's hand to see if those are really black Xs decorating the tops of them. He thinks they are. In a sick way, hopes he’s right.
Instead, he stays where he is and lets them come closer; doesn’t want to rush this.
The music is deafening, obnoxious and just everywhere, but for him it’s a dull hum at best, too attentive to more important details. Details that will make or break the night. Like the way the kid looks around warily every time someone accidentally bumps into his shoulder. First timer. Or the way he smiles when a slender girl in a fishnet top hands him a bottle of water. He’s pretty sure there are dimples when it happens. Dimples. Deep ones.
Satisfied when the girl walks off, Jensen feels himself leave off drilling the back of her head with his eyes and keeps watching, keeps noticing more things to add to his growing pile of good reasons he came out tonight.
They’re about to pass him up, walk right by him and leave him standing there in mute because he doesn’t want to scare the guy off. He knows that tendency follows him around like a helpful plague but this time, that’s not what he needs; not tonight. But something happens just then. And Jensen finds that miracles aren’t meant just for those who pray.
He hears bits of the conversation, rushed but sharp. Scars ain’t on yet… Blah blah blah. Let’s go check out the second stage…His jaw ticks in dismay; doesn’t want to have to head back that way already. But then… Nah, think I’ll see what’s goin’ on over here for a while…
And that’s it. His opening.
Jensen watches the other guy to make sure his presence is far, far away and when he sees him disappear beyond the doorway, his only thought is that he hopes the guys see him, can keep him busy. Jensen has plans of his own.
When he turns back to check where the tall kid has gone, he almost drops his bottle when he doesn’t see him right away.
That’s the moment a green spotlight scans in from just the right angle and there he is.
Leaning against the pillar from the other side. Jensen’s pillar.
Gripping the neck of his bottle in a loose fist, he takes a long pull and drains the last of it, bowing his head forward some and coming out into view. He doesn’t need a rehearsed speech, some played out line; preparation. He’s been ready all night.
Jared isn’t one hundred percent certain why he didn’t just go with Mikey like he would any other night, or any other time he’s thrust into an unfamiliar setting but this time, a lingering curiosity makes him stay in the main room. And that annoying little voice in his head keeps telling him that it’s because he’s looking for something, something very specific. He wants to tell that voice to go to Hell.
Stupidly though, it’s pretty much spot on.
He’s in the middle of doing another scan of the place when something disrupts him and damn near startles him out of his mission, the sound of a voice so close by.
His neck twists to the left to get a look and right away, the rest of him is following suit. It’s the guy from earlier, from the restaurant. The guy with the eyes and they’re trained right on his face now, this time smiling outright.
It comes out strained and too high. Jared’s trying to remember to blink and all at once, he feels oddly embarrassed.
“First time out?”
It could be taken wrong but one look at the guy’s face, his open smile and curiously tilted head, waiting for Jared to answer him, not snap at him, tells him otherwise.
“Been here a few times.”
It’s a lie, an obvious one but the guy just keeps on with that smile. A couple decked out in spikes and tall boots shove past him, halfway fucking eachothers’ mouths the whole time and Jared’s thoughts must be written all over his face as he watches them because the smile in front of him slides into amusement.
Jared shrugs. “Yeah, okay.”
He scratches at the side of his neck, fingers tangling in his hair the way they always do when he’s nervous. Or stupid. Or nervously stupid.
“A little,” Green Eyes says, soft. And Jared can’t help noticing the way his eyes track the movement of Jared’s hand, knows he must be seeing the giant black Xs that scream I’m still a baby! Christ. It’s an all ages show, sure, but Green Eyes is holding a matching green bottle with a label Jared doesn’t even need to see to know it’s not ginger ale. He somehow feels even lamer now.
“So?” Jared repeats, trying to fully grasp what’s even happening here, why this guy’s talking to him so much and just. What.
“The patio’s usually not as loud.”
It’s just a statement really, nothing remarkable or even all that interesting. But to sixteen year old Jared with the telltale marks on his hands, it's an offer to take a chance; hang out with someone older and infinitely cooler and not stand around just being the dork who makes honor roll every semester. And in his head, there’s exclamation points around what he sees as an invitation and like a dumbass, he eagerly jumps at the chance right away.
Mikey's over by the front of the stage now, calling out to Jared and yelling something about the band coming on next but he's huddled with others now, not alone, the other guys from lunchtime his mind readily supplies, even Dez or whoever, and he'll be fine without Jared. Just fine.
He throws the deuce, nods his head and follows the guy whose friends call him Jenny right out the side door and doesn’t bother looking back again.
As it ends up, not a whole lot of things are quite what Jared thought them to be.
For one thing, the patio ended up being little more than a well placed stone on a muddy lawn because they stay there just long enough to watch a fistfight break out and for Jared to make an offhanded remark about secondhand smoke. That was when Jenny lifted his brows and sort of bobbed his head toward the parking lot. Another offer.
And what’s more, the guy’s damn name isn’t even Jenny.
Jared sure felt like a fool for that one; just thankful he hadn’t said anything out loud that might make him seem like some overzealous kid listening into conversations he’s not a part of or maybe just like a stalker. Or you know, whatever. His name is actually Jensen and Jared can’t help but grin to himself when he hears it. A name like that, so different and yet still familiar. Kind of like Jensen’s voice.
It’s low and rough and almost doesn’t match his overly pretty face and Jared’s not above admitting that he’s noticed because shit yeah. He’s noticed. Other parts of him are quietly noticing as well.
They trail away from the patio before 1979 is even halfway over, the crowd getting rowdy inside. Jared, though, really doesn’t feel all that bad about leaving.
Jensen’s car is an older model; a sort of mint green ’67 Chevy Impala with a black roof and a wicked sound system. Riding shotgun with the music blaring and the windows down, his hair blowing every which way, not knowing where the hell they’re going and for once not giving a fuck, Jared feels like this is what his friends meant by having a life.
Somewhere between I-10 and Culebra, Jared feels the buzz of his phone through his pocket and slides it out in a rush in case it’s his dad wondering why he’s not answering the home phone or Mrs. Martinez from across the landing who’s away on vacation and maybe calling to make sure Jared’s fed her two cats. Turns out, it’s neither.
Alicia’s sent a quick text – shelly was hurling in the sink.. bitch is prob knocked up. stuck here now. looks like we both missed out :( – from work, apparently. He types out a short response – actually came 2 the show! – and okay yes, maybe he’s not there now but it’s not a lie. Technically, it’s not.
When he looks up, Jensen is looking at him with a thoughtful expression and it’s enough to make him put his phone away, not even caring when he feels a response buzz him again on the thigh. Jensen raises the volume on the stereo even higher and drunk on something that’s not even alcoholic, Jared has the inclination to sing along.
He doesn’t do it, but he wants to.
It’s not a common occurrence for there to be anything more than a not-quite frown on Jensen’s face; most of the time he has little, if any, reasons to smile. His job down at the shop doesn’t pay well, he lives off of TV dinners that never taste fully cooked and he stays in a bum ass house with four other guys and not a real speck of privacy except when he locks himself in his room in the dead of night. And when he leaves, he has to padlock it shut just to make sure nothing grows feet and walks out. He has those kind of friends.
No, none of that makes him smile. Not really. Not ever.
Things aren't all bad, though. There's other stuff.
He’s alright at playing pool, can snap a guy’s neck in under four seconds now, pretty fucking accurate with a handgun and truth be told, smarter than he ever likes to let on. Still, those are all just characteristics that over time, come with the territory. His frown might even deepen during a few of those.
But right now, with his fingers thrumming against his old leathered steering wheel and blazing down a highway under a portrait of a sky with a thousand stars that seem to spell out what if, Layne Staley making the car feel full and this Jared kid by his side, so unknowingly gorgeous and trusting and genuinely nice, yeah, maybe Jensen’s smiling tonight.
Maybe he is.
When they get out of the car, Jared’s actually surprised to find that he recognizes the place.
He hadn’t paid attention to where they were going, mainly stared at cars in other lanes and Jensen’s profile when he wasn’t looking. But now that he’s taking it all in, he knows exactly where he’s at. Hell, he was probably seven or eight the last time he set foot at Woodlawn Lake, for the fireworks display during the fourth of July with his parents that one summer. But he still remembers. A lifetime ago it feels like, but nothing aside from a few new coats of paint has changed.
“Huh? Oh. Yeah, yeah. Always loved coming here,” Jared says, remembering himself. And Jensen. The pitch in his voice is accidental and makes him sound like he’s gushing.
It’s little more than a huge, glorified pond in the middle of town with a jogging trail wrapped around. Some tennis courts, a small pier for the odd fisherman or two and a vendor always parked on one side selling pickles or shaved ice, raspas.
The benches are still hunkered down into the ground where they always were, whole families of ducks still loiter the grounds, and even when it gets to be this late at night, a handful of cardio enthusiasts can be found with headphones on, counting the mile markers lap after lap around the lake.
In fact, the only thing that’s changed out here really is Jared himself.
He hasn’t been the scrawny short kid with knobby knees in a long, long time and if there ever was a phase where he might’ve been staring at that chick’s tits bounce around her chest as she jogged past, well. He must’ve skipped right over that one because as they climb up onto the trunk of Jensen’s car, all Jared’s really looking at is this stranger who could be anyone in the world for all he knows. Anyone at all.
But something won’t let him feel all that bad about being naïve enough to just up and take off with Jensen; he just can’t work up the skepticism he knows he should feel.
The streetlamps flicker above them and it’s not even half an hour later that whatever traces of possible wariness were still lingering, are completely gone. Jensen’s an amazing listener, nodding in genuine interest or concern over whatever Jared has to say and Jared hadn’t known he even had things to say.
“How old was she?” Jensen finally says. He stops, thinks this over, starts again like an apology. “I’m sorry, that was rude. You don’t have to –“
Jared waves hand easily, he’s not adjusted yet; not by a long shot. But he can talk about it at least. And for once, he actually sort of wants to, just to get it out. Jensen has a soothing quality about him.
“Would have been forty three next month. But she’d tell you thirty eight.”
“Young,” Jensen says, staring up into the sky.
Jared can only agree by way of a nod. Much, much too young.
“No amount of chemo could do much after awhile, just started, I dunno. Multiplying, I guess. Got really bad one month and that was it, she just never bounced back to her old self and sometimes, I think it was just her will to live that gave up.”
Jared’s never spoken about this before, not even with his dad. Not even out loud. Doesn’t know why he is now. And like he can’t stop his tongue from moving, he keeps going.
Keeps going until he’s finally out of things to say, keeps going until Jensen hears all about his mom and how she used to make him banana pancakes on Saturday mornings growing up, keeps going until he’s remembering the exact smell her favorite perfume scented the house with, keeps going until his voice has grown soft and Jensen’s eyes have grown even softer, scooting closer until their legs are casually touching and it feels far less invasive than any of his meetings with the counselor at school.
The remaining joggers have slowed down to a zombie walk and the night is both clear and calm enough to catch the splish splish sound from the water as a few ducks wander in. It’s late by the time Jared realizes his ass is numb from so much sitting, the metal unyielding.
“Oh shit.” He’s trying not to sulk when he looks down at his wristwatch.
“Weekend curfew was almost half an hour ago,” he says, quiet. His face feels warmer, pinker. Jensen doesn’t seem like the type who still has a curfew and it puts a significant feeling of lameass in the air, like Jared’s some child and should have been tucked in by now like a good little boy.
Jensen looks over curiously, ducks his head to get closer and grabs Jared’s watch, his hand.
It’s weird, having this not-stranger so close to him, almost leaning across his lap, a tuft of hair tickling Jared’s nose and he can smell shampoo, the clean scent of laundry detergent and each second lasts an hour, Jensen holding Jared’s wrist in his upturned palm. And it’s weird, but not bad weird.
He fiddles with the spin knob on the side a couple of times, relinquishes control of Jared’s limb and settles back in where he was before. He grins, tiny but confident.
Jared looks down at the face of his watch and sees what’s different. 12:15 p.m.
Looks up at Jensen and sees what’s different there, too.
“All the time in the world,” he says and he falls back until he’s laying against the back window, arms crossed behind and pillowing his head. He stares up at the sky but when he smiles, it’s just for Jared.
Jared leans back, too.
When Jared gets home, it’s closer to three o’clock than two.
The deadbolt is left unlocked and the lights are out in every room but there’s a note taped to the front of his door, where he can’t miss it – We’ll talk in the morning.
He goes to sleep, dreams of things that haven’t even happened yet, might not ever happen and doesn’t let himself worry about the consequences. He’ll deal with that when his eyes can stay open on their own.
Turns out, Mikey called his house looking for him, in a panic. "Dude. Dude. Where are you? Saw you take off with that guy and I tried to find you all night but, shit. I don’t know. I don’t know. Uh. Call me, alright? Soon as you get this. I – alright. Laters."
When the message stops, Jared’s glaring at the answering machine and his dad is watching him with that Oh really? expression that parents always know how to perfect. Must be in the 100 Ways To Make Your Kid Squirm handbook. Jared’s sure there’s one.
He gets a couple weeks of laundry duty, both his and his dad’s, and his allowance is cut off until next month. Which isn’t so bad, really. Cafeteria food and a couple of extra loads in the machine. Could be worse.
He spends all of Sunday holed up in his room, getting some use out of his Playstation and texting Alicia all of the details from the night before. She’s outrageous, out of her mind over the fact that Jared actually met up with the guy from The Cove and had a life for once. Fate!, she sends him, dramatic. FLUKE, he types back, but he’s smiling.
Think u’ll c my future hubbs again? ;)
He snorts, doesn’t respond, and tosses his phone off to the side. Jared goes back to his game and once he’s grown bored of his winning streak, starts finishing up his homework and doesn’t let anything distract him.
Well, almost anything.
Because Alicia’s last text keeps blinking in the back of his mind and truthfully, he’s wondering the same thing.
Monday afternoon, just after the last bell of the day has rung, is when Jared stops wondering.
He’s out front in their usual spot, leaned up against the flagpole as they wait for Mikey to do whatever it does that takes him an extra ten minutes every single day.
“So I was right,” Alicia says. She’s sitting cross legged on the cement by Jared’s feet and filling in a scuff on her boot with permanent marker. “Slut’s gonna be feeding a new mouth.”
“What?” Jared says, distracted.
The fuck is taking Mikey? It’s been fifteen now.
“Shelly. From work. Apparently, she came clean yesterday when she called Jimmy, our overnight assistant. She said she’s not going the aborsh route, so…”
Jared nods like he’s listening. He’s really not. Too busy craning his head and trying to see around the crowds, looking for a familiar beanie and just when he’s about to say fuck it and just walk to the bus stop because Jesus fuck, his stomach is making some wicked noise, Mikey comes running up.
“There she is, my favorite bitch!” he yells, grinning madly.
Alicia is going to protest by way of fist action but he rushes right past her and sweeps Jared into a suffocating bear hug.
“I hate you.”
His voice is tiny, lungs being crushed and Alicia snickers, standing up and dusting herself off.
“We ready to go?” she asks, already in the midst of trying to pull Mikey’s pants further up his ass before he’s even let Jared go. She’s bent over halfway and fiddling with his stud belt when she stops and goes still, her eyes growing comically wide.
“What?” They both ask at the same time, both turning around like it’s been choreographed.
There’s a green Impala parked across the street, directly in his line of sight and for a moment, he's stunned into paralysis before he reacts. Then it's seconds flat before Jared’s got his backpack up off the ground and he’s heading that way, keeping his smirk as minimal as he can manage. Mikey protests behind him, asks him where the fuck he’s going, but Alicia tells him to shut the fuck up and the sound of their bickering disappears altogether as Jared’s legs eat up the ground like nothing.
Jensen’s expression is unreadable until Jared opens the door and climbs in. His mouth changes and he goes from blank to pleased, quick enough that Jared notices. Notices and can’t help the feeling that shoots up his spine.
His seat belt clicks and they’re peeling out before Jared can even take in a full breath of air.
Alamo Café is the type of place that everyone needs to try at least once in their life, whether they’re just passing through 210 or there to stay. Jared thinks so, anyway.
They sit at a booth and order Cokes, conversation coming along just fine while they wait for their server to come back.
Jared orders a classic Mexican plate and sure, he can get one pretty much anywhere in town but the saying of tried one, tried ‘em all, just doesn’t always ring true. At least not for enchiladas. And these are the green ones. It’s a big deal.
Jensen gets shredded chicken puffy tacos and invites Jared to help himself to the heaping glob of guacamole on his plate. Jared hesitates for all of a second before he’s digging a chip in to scoop some out and through the entire meal, with Jared talking about a fight that broke out in the hallway in between inhaling the contents on the tabletop, it all feels undeniably comfortable. Easy.
“Do we need separate checks today?”
Jared glances at the waitress when they’ve finished, stuttering awkwardly as he reaches for his wallet – and the last remnants of his funds – , but Jensen cuts in and tells her one's good.
He doesn’t look at Jared, makes no indication that it means anything more than just what it is, that it means what Jared knows it can’t actually fucking mean and then they’re heading back out into the heat, back to Jensen’s car.
“Thanks,” Jared says, not knowing if he should say something more.
Jensen gets in behind the wheel and when Jared’s resumed his place at shotgun, his mouth twitches and Jared relaxes.
Jensen, for his part, is starting to speak in nothing but smiles alone.
He gets home when it’s growing dark, but enough peach purple out in the sky for it to still pass as daytime. But as reasonable as that is, Jared doesn’t care. He’s tired as fuck and after he unloads the dryer, the only thing on his agenda is some quality time with his bed. Who knew that driving through the city and head bobbing along to the likes of Local H and 311 could warrant so much exhaustion?
By 7, Jared’s crashed the fuck out, hand on his stomach and a small grin on his lips.
Jared does his best impression of a newborn baby bird and blinks in the stark black of his room, yawning hugely.
The standard numerical red on his bedside clock reads 1:39 and had it not been for the fact that he is surrounded by darkness, he’d think he overslept all the way into fourth period, his sleep the best one he’s had in some time. He chalks it up to fresh sheets and acutely avoids at all thinking that it might be due to the fact that his dream contained new jerkoff material with gold-flecked eyes and fucking pouty lips, and chooses to focus on other things.
Like what that cat scratch sound just outside his room, that rudely woke him, might have been.
He listens again, careful. There’s no pelts of rain and there hasn’t been hail gracing their great city in at least a year. Besides, it’s fucking hot as hell in his room and the apartment isn’t so well built that he wouldn’t be able to feel the chill seeping in. Last he checked, the trees weren’t drooping anywhere near the wall his bedroom window was on.
And there it is again, a soft rapping against the screen.
It gets louder the longer he lays in bed, doing nothing. Speedier, too. Almost a rhythm, but urgent.
If it’s Mikey, he swears he’s going to throttle him until he’s unrecognizable for even thinking to come by at this hour. And really, Jared would be content to let him sit out there all fucking night if not for his dad in the next room over and usually more in need of sleep than his son.
Just as he’s thrown the covers off and is padding along the carpet, barefoot and more than halfway to his window, he has a sudden panic.
What if someone’s actually trying to rob them right now?
He should get his dad. Or at least get the phone in his hand to call for help. He does neither, choosing to tip toe the rest of the way, lean against the wall until his cheek is smushed to the surface and peak out the slivered crack between the blinds and the sill.
Jensen’s staring back at him with a tranquil smile.
First, he almost wets himself in a state of fear, thinking a burglar was creeping along. To be followed immediately with almost wetting himself in a state of something else entirely. Luckily, his worn old pajama bottoms stay dry when he flips the locks and shoves the window up, slow.
Jensen’s wearing the same thing he had on at the restaurant but in the darkness, with the moon casting a silverblue glow to the side of his face and his bottom lip creating a shadow underneath, he looks almost devastating.
Even through the screen, Jared can see every detail he was trying not to spend too much time on earlier. Like the soft sprinkle of freckles across his nose, the tops of his cheeks. The slight bend to his nose like maybe he was in a bar fight once and it never quite went back to its original shape. It only adds to the intrigue.
“What’s up, man? What are you doing here?”
Mentally, he checks himself and forces his eyes to look at something other than Jensen’s mouth.
“Was just in the neighborhood, you know. Thought I’d drop in, see what you were up to.”
His face is set, his eyes reveal nothing and for all Jared knows he might be fucking serious.
“’s’not too late, is it?”
There’s nothing but a sheet of thin, wiry cage separating them and Jared can smell that clean soapiness he remembers from the first night, combined with the scent of grass outside and just an edge of cigarettes. Somewhere in the back of his head, he wonders if Jensen smokes but he never gets a syllable into it because Jensen breaks, cracking on a smirk.
“I’m kidding, Jared. I know it’s a ridiculous time of night and I shouldn’t be here. Don’t know why I am here, it’s just. What? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Jared coughs, caught out that he’d been staring. Again.
“See, the thing is. I got home tonight, last night, and I was ready for bed, Hell, I was in bed and I had all of these thoughts, just thoughts about everything. Nothing. Too many, not enough. And it was like, I couldn’t fall asleep for shit and kept watching the ceiling, waiting for it to, I dunno, start talking to me or something,” he laughs and Jared listens to the smooth flow of his voice, rapt.
“That happens to me sometimes,” Jared says, mindless and not even paying attention to himself really.
Jensen looks at him and nods once.
“Does this screen come off?”
Jared fumbles for a moment, forgets just where he is. Until Jensen is fiddling with the side latch and tugging at it helplessly. Jared’s body wants to freeze up, almost does, but he makes himself stay lucid and works to push it out until it’s swung open and then Jensen’s right there in front of him, no barriers.
He starts to stammer out something lame and weak about his dad being home and not allowed to have people over this late, praying to fuck that Jensen doesn’t try to come in or anything and secretly praying to fuck that he does.
Jensen lets his forearms down on the ledge and leans in on his elbows. He doesn’t climb inside, just rests there, hanging somewhere between in and out and smiles at Jared like it’s enough.
“So all that time I was laying in bed and..”
“And not sleeping,” Jared supplies, watching Jensen closely and wishing he’d been smart enough to throw on a shirt, because being this close, so near Jensen, well. It doesn’t help matters that he already regrets wearing pants, too.
“And not sleeping,” Jensen agrees, studying the paint on Jared’s wall like winning lottery numbers are encrypted beneath. “It had me feeling like, there was something I did wrong. Or forgot to do. Like I’d left something behind and needed to go back for it and I guess. I guess that’s why I’m here, to get it. Or find it.”
“What?” And it’s embarrassing how little it sounds like a word. “What was it?”
Jensen is still staring to the left of Jared’s hand when he chews at the corner of his mouth and says “Alright, this might be weird but just. Let me do this and then you can—”
He doesn’t finish, moves too soon.
In reflex haste, Jared’s self preservation instincts combat to the surface and he almost headbutts Jensen on purpose until he realizes what’s happening and his eyes go large, then slip shut.
Jensen’s got one hand gripped onto the side of windowpane and the other resting along Jared’s jaw, tilting his head just so as he presses their mouths together, licks at the seam of Jared’s. It was unexpected, not unwanted and Jared has no further issues with events transpiring and he lets his lips go slack, opening up for Jensen easily.
The hand on his face slides up and moves to the back, softly pulling at the hair along the nape of Jared’s neck and he can’t help the little sigh that gets punched out of him, Jensen licking into his mouth like he’s done this a hundred, thousand, times before. Jensen. His mouth. His mouth. Jared’s own actual mouth, that is connected to the rest of him. And Jensen is on his knees in the grass, halfway into Jared’s home and ravaging it like this might never happen again.
That thought twists something uncomfortable in Jared’s chest and he grabs onto the sides of Jensen’s face, feels the stubble, hauls him closer and slicks his tongue into the sweet wet of Jensen’s mouth, touches at his teeth with it, every surface.
When Jensen finally lets go, it’s only because they have to breathe but if given the choice, Jared thinks he might’ve rather chanced death. He feels impossibly close to that point as is.
“Jesus,” Jensen says, lips shiny.
Jared watches him specifically not wiping them dry. He actually sweeps his tongue along like he’s going for another taste, wetting them further.
Jared never claimed to have some huge supply of resistance or tact and he dives right back in, latches onto Jensen’s mouth until they’ll be bruised and sloppy and can let everyone know that someone has been there. Jared has been there. It's a regrettable thing when he has to stop again.
He tries hard to think of something good to say, suave and articulate, alluring enough to keep Jensen around. But what he finds himself saying is more like, “So that was..”
“Well worth the drive,” Jensen says.
In the morning, Mikey lays on the horn and doesn’t let up until Jared’s all the way in the car. He does stop then, but only to stare at Jared hard. Too hard. Like he’s calculating the exact gayness of him now, the number of rainbow cells getting mixed in with the red and white. He doesn’t know, shit, Jared doesn’t even know if it’s true, but he might suspect.
Jared flips down the visor, checks himself over in the mirror and frowns at his hair going every which way despite attacking it with a brush for a good minute or more.
Nobody says anything the rest of the ride to school, aside from the usual screams thrown out the window to watch people at the bus stops jump, and Jared relaxes.
It’s a week later when Jared finally gets it.
He’s been spending every free minute with Jensen – going places, doing things, exploring the city Jared’s known his whole life but still finding that everything can be new again when the angle is changed – and when he’s not with him, he wonders when they’ll hang out again, can’t believe someone as cool as Jensen would even want to. But he does and Jared’s head feels full with him, his chest full with something else.
So it’s not a surprise that he misses a fuzzy little detail now and again, like the fact that Mikey has apparently been one step away from full on living with Morgan and Dez, and by default, Jensen.
“So they’re thinking of converting the garage into, like, a pool room or whatever. With dark lighting and maybe some shit on the wall to play darts, that kinda thing. I said I’d help, no probs,” Mikey is saying, one day during lunch period.
“You getting paid?”
Mikey looks at Alicia like she’s a dope with snakes growing out of her head. And okay, so she does have green dreads at the moment, but that’s not even really the point.
“Nah,” he frowns, picks up his sloppy joe and takes a thick bite and says between chews, “Why would I? That's what friends are for, punk.”
Whatever else is said, Jared’s not tuned in.
His mashed potatoes start to cool, fork still in hand, stuck on Mikey’s words, what friends are for. Friends. The word might fit, loosely, but it strikes Jared just then that he hasn’t been spending enough time with his lately; not like they used to. Everywhere they went, it’d be the three of them – never leave a man behind. Even Alicia. Although she probably counted more in that regard than either of them did.
It’s not a secret that all of his time has been designated to Jensen, Mikey and Alicia pretty much already know what’s going on with that, even if no one says it out loud, but something feels a little, off.
“Yo stilts, you still with us, man?”
Jared zeros back in, nods. He sets his fork down and lifts his brows on an easy smile, like he’d been present all along.
“The sound of your voice is like Ambien, sorry. What’s up?”
Mikey rolls his eyes and doesn’t even bother to retort.
“I asked if you wanted to come over and help us, maybe this weekend or something? Could use an extra pair of hands that can reach the ceiling without a ladder. Least you’d be good for something…”
Chocolate milk when it’s tepid isn’t wonderful but Jared chugs it like a refreshing beer, the kind he doesn’t drink, and uses those few seconds to think of a way to get out of it that doesn’t make it seem like he’s being a dick or like he’d rather have quality Jensen Time instead.
“I’ll check with my dad later, see if I can.”
He doesn’t say no but that’s what he means.
It’s not because he doesn’t want to, he actually does want to, even if it means that Jensen will just be somewhere nearby and not right by his side, stroking his fingers down Jared’s ribs over the shirt and telling him he bets his body is unreal, but the thing is, is that he feels awkward.
It’s the fact that Mikey invited him to the house. Mikey did.
He knows Jensen’s not especially proud of where he lives, Jared knows that and it’s fine. His parents live somewhere up near Dallas and he phones his mom once a week so she can still hear his voice, but the house he shares with his buddies isn’t blue shutters and clipped, green grass. Says he said goodbye to that when he left home to make a new life, one just for himself.
Maybe he’s more embarrassed of where he stays than he lets on but shit, Jared lives in a small, two bedroom apartment, it’s not exactly the Ritz. There’s no reason for Jensen to get reclusive on him and maybe he’s not, maybe it’s all in Jared’s head. But the fact that Mikey gets to go over, help with stuff and wake up there in the morning, while Jared hasn’t even been invited, it…
It doesn’t hurt but it’s just, not cool. Like he’s being left out of something, or maybe it’s that Jensen doesn’t think Jared’s cool enough to take there and – okay, fine. So it hurts.
Jared’s dad is watching him over his glass of orange juice, eyes narrowed down to a squint.
It stays silent and the box of Lucky Charms in front of him is interesting enough so Jared mentally starts up on the maze on the back, trying to reach the rainbow, until it starts to feel like a bad and stupid metaphor for what his life’s become and he gets up to put it back on top of the refrigerator where he won’t have to look at it.
He takes his seat and finishes the last dregs of milk in his bowl and when he’s done licking the spoon clean, he’s still being watched.
“You’re starting to scare me, Dad.”
His dad smiles like he knows something and slants his head.
Finally, when Jared can't take it anymore, he scowls. “What?”
“What’s her name?” is what his dad comes back with and Jared’s frown falls into a little o shape in his confusion.
“What?” His vocabulary is starting to suffer.
“I know that look, Jay. Worn it a few times myself here and there but it’s never seen your face ‘til now so come on, you can tell your old man. I need some excitement in my life and if my boy’s got hearts in his eyes, I wanna hear all about the girl who put them there.”
Jared almost chokes on a wad of spit.
“Dad. I’m not—“ he starts to say, but it feels all wrong and his mouth won’t let him get it out. The knowing eyes of a man who's been there, done that, say Don't bullshit me, son and Jared sees it clear for what it is. “There’s no girl. I promise.”
“There’s no girl. Makes sense. And I work construction for the scenery.”
“Alright, alright,” his dad says, grinning down at the tablecloth. He gets up with their dishes and wanders to the sink but the smile in his voice doesn’t fade. “No more embarrassing talks before school, I got it.”