Storm Coming On


Jensen Ackles is no overnight success.

His road to fame has been paved with long hours, hard work and his fair share of fuck ups along the way. His path is strewn with people he met on this road he's on, and a few of them have stuck close, stayed friends. So Jensen isn't the least bit surprised when, a couple of days into the Christmas hiatus on his hit new hour long Tuesday slot WB drama, thank you very much, Chris Kane rings him up and says he's in Dallas. The two of them decide it's past time they went out drinking, which is, as far as Jensen's concerned, a fucking fantastic idea. Supernatural shoots fourteen-hour days, and as much as he likes hanging out with Jared Padalecki, he gets to the point where he misses his friends.

Chris knows this country bar. Shit, it's Chris. He'd know a country bar if they were in Dallas, Washington or Timbuktu. They slide in with baseball caps, looking like normal guys, and nobody gives them a second look. They drink, kick back and enjoy the music, talking about how great it is to be back home. (Even though Dallas hasn't technically been "home" to Chris in about twenty years, both of them agree that any place you can't get Dixie beer is a foreign fuckin' country.) Jen bitches about the play money and sugar-sweet attitude in Canada, and Chris bitches about how cold it is when he's gotta tour up north. Beer and tequila go down in waves.

Along about two a.m., Chris awkwardly brings it up that if Jen's smart, he won't do the thing Chris thinks he's doing. That Padalecki, he seems like a nice kid. Chris knows a thing or two about co-stars and best friends and stuff, and Jen just better steer clear if he knows what's good for him. Just saying.

Jensen plays dumb for a bit, but he knows exactly what Chris is talking about. He doesn't say the name "Boreanaz" out loud, because that's a bad idea around Chris. But he's thinking it.

The bar has those low tables, neon lights and no dance floor. Chris picks the label off his beer as he's talking, not looking at Jensen, just down the neck of the bottle like the barrel of a gun. He looks just like twelve other guys in here, and Jensen thinks maybe he looks that way too.

By the end of the night, they're hammered. Chris calls a cab on his cell phone and can barely keep it together well enough to get the name of the bar. Jensen just leans on his shoulder, laughing as Chris cusses him. They stand outside smoking and laughing into each other's faces, clutching the leather jackets at shoulder and waist. When the cab pulls up, they fall in and roughhouse all the way back to where Chris is staying, a decent sized house that belongs to a friend of his. He's been out here for a month or so, working on an album when they don't need him on his show, which is most of the time. He's got a basketball hoop on the garage for pickup games with the band, when they practice here. Jensen's been around for them a time or two; they're a lot of fun.

The minute they're in the front door, Chris kicks it closed and takes off his jacket, and Jensen's pushing him up against a wall and kissing him. They tongue-fuck, hungry and needful as they tear at their clothes. Jensen tastes whiskey and salt in Chris's mouth, drinks it from his lips. His hands are rough on Jen's skin, but fuck if he cares. It's been weeks since he could get properly laid, and if you can't count on a friend for that, then what the hell are they for?

They fall into Chris's bed, pry apart belts and buttons and Jensen opens his mouth on Chris's cock. It's good, it's solid. He feels some of the tension he's been carrying in the past weeks drain out of him as he licks Chris's dark taste away, and smiles up at him in the dark. Chris growls at him and fists a hand in his hair, pushes him back down, and Jensen smiles then, too.

Chris flips Jensen over after a while and returns the favor. He's not much of a foreplay guy at the moment, but he's nothing if not fair, and Jensen takes his blowjob like a man. His hands are tender on Chris's face, because he knows that drives Chris straight up the wall - it isn't long before a guitar-callused hand is pressing at his hip, urging him over and up, and Jensen goes with that, too. He puts himself in Chris's hands, lets the stress ease off him. It's been a while, so it's a little sore at first, but it gets rough and dirty pretty fast, Chris throwing his hips against Jensen and Jen gritting his teeth and putting fingernail marks in Chris's headboard. They fuck like they drink - hard and straight up.

After, Jensen packs it up and goes home. He likes to sleep in his own bed, and Chris is passed right out. Jensen finds a lipstick in Chris's bathroom and grins, draws a kiss mark on the mirror over the sink right about where Chris's lips should be when he finally wakes up and peers into the glass.

Sucker.

When he gets home, he showers before he goes to get into bed. It's weird, but he's somehow faintly dissatisfied, and he doesn't know why. He and Chris were just like he and Chris always are, a little warm pleasure between friends; nothing was missing. But still...

He shrugs it off. Whatever it is, it can wait until morning. He falls into his own bed and is almost instantly asleep.


Chris's house - this one or his home in L.A., either one - is a little messy. There are clothes in the corner. It's a nice place, but it's not a star's place. It's just Chris. Jen doubts the guy even has a regular maid. That warms Jensen's heart in some way he can't define.

But Jen's place in Vancouver, now, that's a star's house. He lives in a high-rise loft with a buzzer and a guy at the door. He has a regular maid, and he still has this bad habit of leaving socks wherever they fall. Jen isn't a big sock fan. It's both shoes and socks, or it's nothing at all. There's gray granite countertop and black tile in the bathroom, and there's a floor-to-ceiling window in his bedroom that looks out onto the city. He's not in city center or anything, just nearby. He's got one of those beds that sits on the floor, with no space underneath it. Jen's told himself that's good - he can't shove stuff under the bed, which makes for a cleaner apartment - but he misses having that space. It reminds him of home.

When he's in L.A. he stays with friends like Chris, who have their houses out there, or in hotels. He's rarely there long enough for a house to really be feasible. His parents' place in Dallas is the only house that has real sentimental value for him, so it all works out.

Jensen's actually very practical. He likes things to be planned out, likes to be in control. Even when he's doing something as demented as Clownana, it's someone else's idea. He's just along for the ride.

Chris is right, of course. Jensen should give Jared a wide berth. They're co-stars, they're friends. Going over to Jared's place all the time for beer and sports is starting to get a little frequent. And that idea they've been throwing around about buying an old car and fixing it up on the weekends? That's just trouble waiting to happen.

Jen calls Chris the next day to check up on him. Sure enough, it's as casual and easy as if last night had never happened. It's just a thing, something they did, and might even do again one day, if the urge struck them, but probably not. There's a thing, with friends, and with fucking. Chris tries not to, and most people he knows - those who're genuine friends, anyway - try to quietly help out with that.

So he and Chris catch a game on TV and Jen doesn't pick up the phone or check his voice mail. Blinking light on the way home - normal.

Jared's voice after the beep - not so normal.

Jared's called him before. "Jen, they need you on set." "Jen, you have my iPod. No, that one's mine. It is!" "Yeah, it's completely Jensen Ackles! Everybody say hi! He's so hot, don't you think, you guys?" and they trill and squeal on the other side of the phone and Jared laughs at his premiere, or whatever the hell he's doing, and Jen blushes and swears he'll get Jared later. That's normal.

But this...

A long silence. Then, in a weird, muted half-voice: "I left my girlfriend." more silence. "Can you...?" a blank space, and then a sound like Jared rubbing his hand over his face, pulling that angsty, pained Sam expression like his puppy just died. To Jensen, that's a sound. "Naw, never mind. I'll see you in a couple weeks."

And then nothing.

Jensen hits the callback button and it dials Jared's cell phone. It rings and rings, and then Jared's voice mail picks up. "You've reached Sam Winchester. I'm talking to some girl on my ceiling, so y'all leave a message." Jensen hangs up, because Jared'll get the caller ID, and goes home, feeling a little better about his own life, but irked at his friends for being such morons as to fall in love with the wrong people.

A day goes by, and no call from Jared. So Jensen calls again, and leaves a message.

"Sam. Dean. Get your ass to the phone and call me back or I'll sic the Hook Man on you. And you're not from Texas, dingbat."

It was a good message - funny, personal, nice brotherly digs.

No response.

So he tries again... and again... and again.

"Jared, I got your message. Call me."

"Jared, where the hell are you? I will hunt you like a dog."

"Let go of the bottle, crawl out of the bathroom and call me, jerkwater."

Days go by and Jensen hasn't heard a thing. He'd track the guy down himself, but he's visiting his parents and they'd ask questions. He's worried, about to call out the damn search parties, or maybe the WB to see if he can get hold of McG or Eric. He even pulls out his phone, but his fingers dial Jared's number, out of habit or hope.

"You've reached Sam Winchester. I'm talking to some girl on my ceiling, so y'all leave a message."

"Jared..." The phone beeps in his ear, and he pulls it away to check the screen - and immediately switches over without bothering to hang up the other call. When he puts the phone to his ear, the voice is unmistakable.

"Jen. Jesus." Sleepy sounds of waking up, of dry mouth. Jensen can see his sleepy eyes, his bedhead, in his mind. He slurs, all accent and - surely - hangover. "Whuh time's it?"

Jensen checks his watch and calculates out the time difference between Dallas and L.A. "It's eleven in the morning, man. Where the hell have you been?"

Jared groans, sounding pained. "Couple friends took me down to this bar. Goddamn. I ain't been that drunk since I dunno when."

"Shit." Jensen paces his parents' living room, anxious and irritated, worrying his lip. "Where in the Sam hell are you?"

Jared laughs, and he sounds still a little drunk. "Somewhere 'tween Jess and mom. Why, where'n the Dean hell r'you?"

"Jared!"

The voice on the other end of the phone gets a little petulant, a little oh-god-my-head. "Dammit. Don't yell, Jen."

Jensen schools his voice into a quieter tone, but he's still impatient, still needing an answer to the damn question. "Where are you, man?" Whoever's house Jared is at, Jen's sure he can dig up someone to come by and clean him up, get him into a taxi and...

"... Dallas."

Jensen stops pacing. "Did you say you're in Dallas?"

"Yeah."

"Where?"

"The Fairmont."

"What name are you using?"

He pauses, and then sounds a little ill. "Jen, don't worry about it. I'm fine."

"Didn't ask. I'll be there in a bit."

Jensen runs out, keys in hand, and only barely remembers to phone his parents to let them know he's going out for a bit, and that they shouldn't include him in the Christmas plans for the next few hours. They're that type, his family - he's sure that, somewhere, his mom has plans for what they'll wear to Armageddon.

At the Fairmont concierge, he asks for Sam Winchester, and they let him up.

Jensen arrives to a fucking disaster area.

There's clothes and room service and empty bottles everywhere, more than Jared could have made on his own. The curtains are drawn, and housekeeping obviously hasn't been here in days. Jared's falling back into bed, having let Jensen in when he pounded on the door. The bedclothes are smudged and dirty; god only knows what - or who - he's had in there.

And it stinks.

"Jesus," Jensen says, a little taken aback. "You don't do half ways, do you, little brother?"

"Don't call me that," Jared mumbles halfheartedly into the pillow, by rote. Jensen's been calling him 'little brother' since practically the minute they showed up on set. Jared always corrects it, and Jensen always ignores him.

Jen gives his head a shake, and then squares his shoulders and marches to the bed. He grabs Jared's arm and hauls him upright; Jared groans and tries to shake him off. "Come on, man. I'm not going anywhere. Just come on, don't be a wuss."

Jared bitches, but they wind up in the bathroom, cursing and staggering against doors and walls. Jensen helps Jared off with his t-shirt and then raises an eyebrow and gestures. "Can you handle the rest of this?"

Jared flat-eyes him. "Fuck off."

Smirking, Jensen leaves him alone and heads back into the room. He opens the windows and winces at the detritus revealed by the stark new light - cigarette butts of every persuasion, scorched carpet, remnants of a grocery run. Crumbs and empty cellophane. Suspicious dirt stains.

Jensen just shakes his head. The shower squeaks on, and Jen ducks his head in the door just as Jared's pulling the curtain closed. "Man, tell me you didn't do any pot or coke or anything I gotta worry about cleaning up." Jared ignores him, leaning against a wall, and Jen tries again. "Hey! Party boy! I'm talkin' to you!"

"Fuck you, Jensen. I didn't ask you to fuckin' come here."

Jen rolls his eyes. Guys are such asses when they get dumped. Still, I guess it beats cryin'. He tempers his tone down into something more soothing. "Whatever. I'm just trying to help you, okay?"

Jared sighs, almost like his normal self. "Jen, I'm sorry. I just..."

"I know," Jensen interrupts. "So, anything I gotta take care of before we let housekeeping in?"

There's some movement behind the curtain, and the sounds of Jared spitting water, of cleaning up. "Naw, nothin'. You know I don't touch that stuff."

"All right. Good."

Jen double-checks, just to make sure, and then takes the please-do-not-disturb sign off the door. He calls the front desk and gets the manager, says they've had an accident with the carpet, but they'll be happy to pay the damages. 'Pay' is a magic word, no matter where you are, and the manager knows who he's got in the hotel, so.

He finds Jared the freshest clothes he can and takes him downstairs, piles him in the car, and they head to a nondescript diner, where Jensen loads him up with coffee and toast and they're not disturbed. They stay for hours, pile the table up with creamers and sugar and Jared lays out the tale - she caught him fucking around, she screamed, he apologized. She told him he's let fame get to his head, and he cut back that it was a good thing she'd never let it get to hers, and they slammed doors. She came for her stuff the next day.

"... And now the apartment's almost empty. I mean, I had my stuff, but it's kinda too big for just that. I don't want to go back there and see it like that, y'know?"

Jensen knows. He promises Jared that by the time hiatus is over, the Vancouver apartment will be packed so full of shit that Jared won't recognize it.

"Meantime, you can come stay with me."

"What?" Jared grins, incredulous, like it's just a big joke.

"I'm not kidding, Jared. I don't know what kind of friends you got, but they're doing you zero favors. No more drinking, no more... any of it." Jen waves his hands around in an all-encompassing kind of way, and Jared just stares at him for a minute.

Finally, he nods. "All right," he says cautiously. "But I can't stay with your folks, man. That'd be... weird."

Jensen nods back. "Don't worry, we got the guest house."

They drink coffee. Jen calls his mother and explains that Jared's gonna be staying with him at the guest house for a few days, that he broke up with his girl. She crows that it's Christmas, and of course that boy should have his friends around him, of course. He talks her out of bringing them cookies while Jared laughs and shakes his head.

When they're done with coffee and eggs, they hit the town. By the end of the day there's one pool table, one glowing neon corona sign, two area rugs, and the complete Indiana Jones DVD set on their way to Vancouver. Jared's much better dressed, and Jensen's much better for having trashed the offending jeans and shirt, as they so rightly deserved. A whole slew of happy salespeople mark their trail, and for dinner, they hit the fanciest restaurant they can find.

Later, when they are fed and tired, they bang in through the guesthouse door, laughing.

"Did you see her face?"

Jared flutters his eyelashes and pulls a high falsetto. "Oh my gawd, Trina, it's them! It's them boys from the tee vee, and they's... Oh my gawd, they's kissin'!!"

Jensen cracks up and Jared's right behind him as they shed jackets and keys and wallets onto the tables on the way to the living room. Falling onto the couch, they grin at the ceiling. "I can't believe you did that, man."

Jared smiles. "It was funny. I can't believe you went with it."

"Well, hey, what can I say? You look like a girl."

"Oh, fuck off!"

"You fuck off." Jared digs an elbow in Jensen's ribs and Jensen returns fire; they laugh easily.

They decide to plug in a movie - Star Wars - and fall asleep there, arguing over whether Eric or McG is Chewy.


When Jensen wakes up, he is on his back on the couch. Jared is lying on-top-of-and-beside him, legs laced with his, face in his neck, one hand palming his waist.

He is, one would presume, dead asleep.

Jensen shifts slightly. A quick glance at a window shows the morning gloaming - it's way too early to be awake. He groans.

"Mm?" Jared's head comes up right away - his eyes are barely open and there's lines on his cheek where the couch pillow and Jen's t-shirt have pressed into his face. His hair is sticking up on one side.

Jensen can't help but smile. "Nothin'. Go back to sleep."

He cracks open one eye a little more. "Jensen?"

"Yeah. We're in Dallas."

Jared wrinkles his nose. "Oh. Yeah." his head drops back onto Jen's shoulder, and he tucks his face into the space between shoulder and neck and snuggles, without a trace of self-consciousness.

Jensen rolls his eyes - Jared's such a girl - and sleeps, contented and warm.


They wake again at about ten in the morning. Light's shining off the table into Jensen's eyes, and he blinks it away, burrows his head further into Jared's shoulder and groans. Jared stirs, and only then does Jensen realize what they've gotten themselves into.

Somehow, his back is against the back of the couch, and Jared is spooned up with him at his front. Their legs are tangled together, one of Jensen's thighs up over Jared's narrow hip, and Jen's got an arm around his chest, pulling him in tightly. His long hair tickles Jensen's nose with its featheriness, its warm, clean smell.

Jared shifts back against him with a sleepy sound, and as the small of Jared's back presses into him, Jensen becomes aware of a problem.

Not to be modest - a big problem.

He blushes. Whoops.

It takes a little doing, but he manages to unknot them and get up without disturbing his sleeping costar. Jared's passed right out, and Jen tosses a blanket over him before going into his bedroom to strip down and climb into the shower.

As he soaps down, he plans out the day. He and Jared'll hang out at the house, just being lazy. Jensen feels for the guy, getting dumped, and he knows Jared's got to be back on top of his game come the end of hiatus. So they'll sit around and play video games and bullshit, and then tonight maybe they'll go out and get a couple of beers. Nothing crazy, like trash-your-hotel-room crazy, but just hanging out.

He smiles as he pours shampoo into his palm, rubs it into his hair. Man. The guy trashed a hotel room. God, what's he been, five years famous? Six? He's so getting nailed for that later. Jensen can't wait to tell makeup on him. They'll cuss him out a hundred times harder than Jensen will. It'll be fuckin' hilarious.

"Jensen," comes Jared's voice, right immediately next to him as Jared taps against the glass of the shower door.

Jensen flips out. There's no other word for it. He's startled and he shrinks back against the shower wall and almost slips and kills himself. He even makes the little scared sound. "Jared! You damned crazy son of a bitch! What in hell do you think you're doing?!"

Jared, naturally, is killing himself laughing. "I just wanted to know where you keep the coffee," he gasps out, hands covering his stomach.

Jensen glares death-eyes at him through the frosted glass, but Jared can't see him and he's only too aware that he probably wouldn't be very threatening with frothy lather in his hair. He ducks under the spray and rubs his palm over his head, hearing Jared still laughing on his way to the kitchen. Bastard.

Jen hurries through the rest of his bodily maintenance - conditioner, for sure, lest Jeannie one more time threaten to turn his head into a four-dollar Goth home dye-job just to cover the split ends. When he's done, he pulls on some jeans and marches straight for the kitchen. Fucking Jared's gonna get it.

Fucking Jared, it turns out, is leaning against his kitchen counter in the warm sunlight. He too is bare-chested and barefoot, having presumably ditched the majority of his clothes until he can steal Jensen's. The twerp. Even Jensen is forced to admit he looks hot - legs as long as Texas is wide, beltless jeans that are slung too far down on his hips, and cut like a brick house. Fortunately, he's Jared, and he makes up for being hot with a flurry of curls and cowlicks and twisted sticking up bits on his head that'd shame a dog. A coffee canister is in his hand - Jensen's best coffee, the import kind special roasted - and he's sniffing it disdainfully. "You can do better than instant, y'know."

Jensen walks right up to him, takes the coffee out of his hand and punches him in the chest. "Hey!" he objects, putting a palm over the pinking spot. "Ease up, there, tiny Rambo."

Jensen scowls at him. "Don't mess with me, little brother. You're a guest in my house, which means I'm legally allowed to shoot you." Jared just laughs, easily, which forces Jensen to smile, against his will. Damn Jared. He's just so... friendly. It's impossible to stay mad at him. The punk. "And don't mock my coffee," he continues grumpily, turning his shoulder to Jared and shielding the canister from him.

Jared throws up his hands. "Fine, whatever, you dork. Can I shower?"

"Depends. Can you fit your head through the door, there, fluffy?" Jensen tugs at one of Jared's curls too hard and smirks, and Jared winces and pulls his head away.

"Shut up."

"Towels in the closet."


It's around about midnight when Jensen realizes his mistake. He's sitting in a bar that's like the personification of the word "bar" if you're standing in Texas. There's neon, loud country music, dim lights and pool tables, jaded waitresses and good ol' boys and a big pile of drunk co-eds on the dance floor. Jensen's wearing his I'm-a-total-hardass attitude like a suit of armor because, being a pretty guy in Texas, you pick that up fast. It's just...

Jared.

Jared's smack in the middle of that pile of drunk co-eds, a blond girl on his left and a dark-haired guy on his right. They're standing in a row, stumbling around and fucking up their way through a line dance, laughing and falling into each other and having a ball. Jared twists his hips, his thumbs hooked into his belt, his cowboy boots scuffing on the ground. Now and again, as the moves of the song dictate, he lifts off the cowboy hat he's wearing by the brim and waves it around. He bought that damn thing just today from a second hand place Jensen dragged them into.

That wasn't the mistake.

Jared's smile is wide and white, his eyes are squinted up with the pleasure of it, his cheeks are flushed. He's really enjoying this, and Jensen's watched him close to make sure he hasn't drank too much. He hasn't. He's just stumbling around because everyone else is, and because he's a huge klutz. Doesn't stop him from looking like he's poured into those jeans - not that Jensen notices that. Just, some of the co-eds are, and even though Jen's not sure they've been identified as movie stars, the fact remains that Jared's... well, he just never learned that hardass look, Jensen guesses, because he's wide open and laughing, happy. He keeps waving Jensen over, trying to get him into it, but Jen stays seated.

That's definitely not the mistake.

No, Jensen thinks wryly as he downs a tequila shot and washes his mouth out with Corona. The mistake was waking up this morning, hard as a coffin nail, and forgetting all about it in the haste to beat Jared black and blue. Because from the wrestling match when Jared got out of the shower, to the wrestling match over whether Luke or Han could win in a fight (they both picked Han, but for different reasons, which was enough), to the wrestling match over whether to order nachos or quesedillas, Jensen has been walking around at least semi-uncomfortable all day. Over his co-star.

And that is just unacceptable.

It isn't Jared. Jared's a dork, a little brother. Sure, he's hot, but that's what they pick TV stars for - hell, if anyone knows that, it's Jensen. He could get work when a dozen other guys more talented than him (by his count, anyway) were working waiter gigs, waiting for an audition. No, it's not about Jared.

Jensen knows it's just about getting laid, something he's not going to get to do probably until they get back from hiatus and he can get back to his own apartment. Jared's a buddy, Jensen'd never put the guy out when he needed a friend. But...

He shakes his head. As he thinks it over, it's clear - friends come first. So he takes a few more minutes in the shower every morning. Fuck it. Jared's a nice body, and a good friend, but that's all. He can ignore that. And it's important to the show, to his career. He's not a teenager. It's just a matter of self-control.

And Chris Kane is full of it, anyway.

He finishes off his beer and heads out onto the dance floor. It's time to get Jared out of here, before the beer starts to look too appealing and they destroy all the recovery they've already done.

His hand lands on Jared's shoulder and Jensen feels the heat pouring off him before he even makes contact. "Jared? Come on, buddy, we gotta go."

Jared's dancing partners glare at him from his side, pressed up against him. Well, the girl's pressed up against him, anyway. Jensen reminds the tiny surge of disappointment that swells in his gut that they're in Dallas, not L.A., and guys don't push up against guys on dance floors here, even if they want to. And that they shouldn't even be having those thoughts about Jared anyway. Pay attention.

Jared, meanwhile, is his usual oblivious self. "Aw, Jensen, come on, man. It's hardly midnight. Guys," he calls to the co-eds. "Guys, come on, my friend needs to dance!"

A song with a beat comes on, and a bunch of girls gather around Jensen and start sliding against him. They're all soft, sweet scents and rounded curves, and Jensen has never wanted to kill Jared more than he does right now. Dean's the cocky one, the charmer, but Jensen would rather hang by his toenails than act like the sexiest guy in a mile, if it's for real. Dancing with four girls while their dates give him pointed looks across the floor... fucking Jared.

What's reasonable here is to excuse himself and wait until Jared's done dancing. Jensen, however, is irritable and pissed off and really fucking horny, and so he does the... other thing that makes sense.

He focuses on the girl fawning all over Jared and he slides up behind her. He starts to dance, and she notices - she sure as hell notices. Jared sends an incredulous glance over her shoulder, and then laughs out loud, like it's all some big joke. The other girls drift back to their dates and Jensen dances out the song, giving Jared's girl the smoky, sultry bedroom eyes that got him hired. She slides between them like she was born to it, and Jared's just dancing on the other side of her, couldn't fucking care less. As the final chords play out, Jensen bows over the girl's hand, just to be stupid. She giggles, and Jared laughs and copies him. The girl giggles some more.

Jensen pays their bill and drags Jared out by the arm.


"Y'awright?" Jared peers at him in the car as they drive back. Jensen probably shouldn't be driving, but he didn't want to wait for the cab, or leave the car in that area, and he did eat. Jared, on the other hand, is blinking a bit too owlishly for Jensen's taste, and his drawl is liquid and slipping over Jensen's ears like rain.

Goddammit.

"I'm fine, man." Jen shifts the engine higher, faster, trying to ignore how warm it is in the car.

When they get back to the guest house, it's actually raining, and they bust in the door dripping. Jensen pulls off his jacket fast and toes off his boots, because they're muddy from the walk. He heads straight for the kitchen, grabs a dishtowel and cleans the water off his leather.

Jared follows after, hopping on one foot as he pulls off his socks. It's barefoot or boots for him, too. "Whatcha wanna do?" he asks, and Jensen glances up, trying not to be irritable. It's not Jared's fault, after all, that the rain in his hair makes him beautiful. It's not his fault that his t-shirt's damp, or that he's so goddamned tall.

"Aw, I don't know. Movie, maybe? Or hey, Dead or Alive?"

Jared gets contemplative for a second, looking up at the ceiling like a seraph. Jensen focuses on his jacket. "Awright. I'ma go git the thing set up," Jared finally says, heading off for the living room. He calls back into the kitchen amid the sounds of the TV starting up and controllers being unraveled. "I'ma take Jann Lee, and I'ma own you."

Jensen laughs, despite the imagery. Even with Jann Lee, Jared couldn't own a four year old. "You're on, buddy," he calls back, shaking out his jacket.

Two hours later, Jensen's switched characters four times and they're still only even. He glowers at Jared, who smirks at him. Their shoulders are burning from the flurry of punches between them when one wins, or the other. Jensen's down to just button mashing with Hitomi - he always plays girls, because he knows the cheat that makes 'em bouncy - and he cusses as she falls to the mat. "You been practicing, you cheap bastard."

"Maybe you just suck. Y'ever think a that?" Their accents are rolling into each other, and they sound like a couple of good old boys on the porch. That happens when they've been drinking, and they spend too much time together. Jensen never even did have much of an accent, city boy that he is, but he does now.

"Like you'll ever know," he mutters under his breath, and delivers a series of kicks and punches that put a smile on his face, that make Jared groan.

"Now that's cheap, bitch!"

"Use your block now and then."

"Shut up."

Jared tosses his controller on the table and leans back, closes his eyes. He shifts his hips so he can sprawl over the couch, drawing Jensen's eyes there to linger over the wide-legged stance, lazy thighs in painted-on denim before he can quickly look away.

Goddammit.

He drops his controller on the table again, but too sharply, and the crack makes Jared look up. Jen just so happens to be gritting his teeth, and Jared spots it, the bastard.

He sits up and puts a hand on Jensen's shoulder, putting in a little massage, obviously sensing the tension. "Jen, really, now. What's wrong?" Jensen looks up as he smiles a little, crooked and wide and bright. "Am I crampin' your style?"

Jensen can't help but laugh, self-mocking and disbelieving. "Not exactly, little brother."

Jared laughs too, because Jensen did, and his is free and easy. "Well, come on. I think hiatus is gettin' to you. Come on, sit here." He pulls Jensen along to sit in the middle of the couch, and Jensen goes with it, can't imagine what he's doing. But it's Jared, so it'll be stupid and fun and dorky, something to lose himself in.

Theoretically.

By the time Jensen understands what's going on, Jared's already got him positioned between those sinful thighs, one of 'em kicked up on the couch, bare feet against a pillow. Jared's big, thick hands are on his shoulders, pressing into the knotted muscle and sending shivers of endorphins spiraling up into his brain. He groans, without meaning to, and Jared laughs softly. "There, see? Just relax, big shot."

Jensen groans again, and this time, it sure ain't from pleasure.

God. Dammit.


The next morning starts out awkward.

Jen's up first, and after he rolls out of bed and showers, he goes to make some coffee. Jared, passed out on the couch, is making more racket dead asleep than he does waking, and that's saying something.

Jen carefully does not look at him.

By the time he's got a steaming hot cup of sweet caffeine in his hand, Jared's padding in, scratching his head sleepily. He's in last night's clothes, and Jensen feels bad for making him sleep like that, not getting him some pajamas or something. Had to be uncomfortable.

"Mornin."

"Mornin." Jared opens the fridge and leans down to look for something edible.

Jensen gets a coffee mug out of the cupboard, which just so happens to put his back to Jared's lean form. Thank God. "You want some coffee? Just made."

Jared yawns. "Yeah, coffee. Coffee's good." Jensen hears the fridge close and then Jared's at his side with a container of milk.

Jensen pours and passes, Jared pours and opens drawers, looking for a spoon. "Listen, I'm sorry." Jensen's wincing, his head down. Jared pauses in his hunt and looks up curiously. "I didn't mean to go all..."

Jared waves his hand, nonchalant. "Nah, man, forget about it."

Jensen can almost see look on Jared's face when he'd fallen back onto the couch, Jensen standing over him, sneering and angry. He looked confused, angry. Hurt. It's not a forgetting thing.

He puts his hand on Jared's shoulder and turns him, makes him look up. Jensen meets his eyes, tries to say it as clear as he can. "Listen, I'm trying to say I'm sorry. It wasn't your fault, I was just... I was just an asshole, okay? I was an asshole and I'm sorry."

The look that comes into Jared's eyes - something hard, grudging - is a relief to see. After you yell at a guy that you don't want him touching you all the time, it's almost relaxing to see that he's going to give you a hard time about it.

"Just relax, man. Lean back."

"Ah, I'm fine. Don't worry about it."

"Shut up and take your massage. Don't be a moron. It's like you're holdin' up the damn world."

"No, really, Jared..."

"Man, what do I gotta do, tie you down?"

"..."

Jensen winces as Jared punches him hard on the arm. "Don't be such a jerk next time," he says irritably.

Jensen gets him a spoon - from the other side of the kitchen, of course - and acts like the contrite guy he is. For about an hour. And then Jared pulls out the X-box controllers and all bets are off.


They go on like that for a while. Jared spends the next couple of days with Jensen - they play video games, watch movies, play football in the living room and almost break the TV - and then he flies to San Antonio on the 23rd to be with his family for the holidays. Jensen "appreciates" the solitude while he's gone, but not for long.

Jensen's plane tickets say December 27. Jared insisted, and Jensen didn't say no.

He should've said no.

Walking through the terminal in San Antonio, he shoulders his carry-on and tries to manage his suitcase at the same time. He's tired, more than anything, because it's nine at night and he just flew across the state and his niece and little sister got him out of bed at some insane hour of the morning to play games involving those little bouncing balls and a lot of giggling. He shouldn't be here, but right now he'd do about anything to find a bed and sleep in it.

At the doors, there's a long, tall guy with a cowboy hat pulled way down over his eyes and shaggy hair, holding a sign that says "Jenson Echolls". Jensen stomps past him and yanks the sign out of his hands - it always pissed him off when they fucked up his name, and he clearly never should have told his obnoxious bastard of a co-star. Jared just laughs and follows him out the sliding doors. They toss his stuff in the back of a rented SUV, and Jensen falls asleep in the passenger seat, listening to the radio play Johnny Cash.

When he wakes up, they're parked.

"Jen?"

There's a soft touch on his shoulder, Jared's big, warm palm. Jensen rouses himself, opens his eyes and sees the headlights staring off into nothingness, just the black Texas plain with nothing but rushes and bullfrogs for miles. His first thought is that they've broken down, and he looks to Jared, concerned. "Hey, what...?"

"We're here."

Jensen blinks as Jared gets out of the car, and then blearily follows his lead. The minute he turns around, he catches on.

Jared's house.

It's a modest-sized house, for a guy whose show got picked up for two seasons. But that's not what catches Jensen's attention. The thing is, it's not just a house.

It's a ranch.

The big iron gate swings open under Jared's hand, and Jensen watches his suitcase fall from Jared's hand and into the dust as his companion dives headlong into a whirlwind of tan fur and barking that has to be at least two dogs. He lays on the ground and wrestles with them, making growly dog-sounds, and Jensen grabs his duffel bag and follows, shaking his head. Over the gate, a rusted sign proclaims: Circle P.

The dogs barrel through the door before they can, racing in and making a ruckus. Jared flips on the light and tells Jensen to put his stuff anywhere, then goes chasing after his dogs, shouting at them and running around the rooms, making them chase him back.

Jared's place in Vancouver is homey, yeah, but it's nothing like this. That apartment is decorated, even elegant at times - made for interviews and tours. It's got elements of Jared, but only in the "certain touches" sense.

The ranch house is pretty bare. There's some furniture - couches, chairs, tables - but none of the little pillows or candles or crap on the mantle that festoon the apartment - Jensen's too, for that matter. Jen never pays it much mind. He hires a decorator for his place, tells her what he wants in a vague, don't-clutter-it-up-much sense, and then stuff appears. This place, though, it's...

If Jared didn't pick this stuff up himself from an Army and Navy, maybe some family basements, Jensen'll eat his hat. Or his something else; he doesn't wear a hat. There's patches of threadbare on this armchair, nicks in the wood of that table. He'd bet anything the china doesn't match.

In the living room, he flops down on the couch in front of the fireplace. There should be a fur rug, he thinks, smiling.

And then he notices there's no TV.

"Jared!"


It's true, there's no TV. No video games, no movies. Jensen thinks he might go crazy, makes a subtle reference to the Shining, but Jared just laughs, the whiskey in his glass reflecting amber back to the flickering fire as they sprawl on the couch, listening to the crickets.

"Y'gone soft, man. Tomorrow you're meetin' the rest of the family."

Jensen smiles at him, sips his own drink. "Didn't we say no family? I seem to recall we said no family."

Jared grins and kicks his boots up on the coffee table. "Not that kind. Sadie and Hurley you met already, but you still gotta say hey to Curly, Jackson, Pole and Twitch." Jensen sends a look at him, and he elaborates: "They live down at the stable?"

Jen smiles. "Ohhh, I get it. Long as you got me here, you're gonna get some work outta me."

Jared laughs outright. "I know better, you lazy bastard." They grin and knock back their liquor. Jared pours them each some more. "Nah, I just thought, y'know. I know you like riding."

Jensen smirks, raises the glass to his lips. "That's what they all say."

It's a sleepy good time. They talk about how they spent Christmas in low voices, about their trees and feasts. Jensen teases Jared about how he still calls his Daddy 'Daddy'; Jared pokes fun at Jensen for being such a sucker for his mama that he took all the lights down and then put them all back up again, so they'd be just right. Jensen feels the tug at his heart and shrugs. "She's my mom," he says, and that's all the explanation he needs.

The fire's burning down and there's long stretches of companionable silence. "Where do I sleep?" Jensen asks, slurring the words together with the warm air and light winter rain.

"Mmm?" Jared's stretched out in the corner of the couch, hands folded on his stomach, feet up on the table. He's almost asleep.

"Gotta go to bed," Jen says, kicking Jared's boot.

"Mm, yeah." Jared leans over and takes Jensen by the shoulders, wrestles him forward and leans back all at the same time, until they're laying on the couch together just like in Jensen's guest house, only Jared's the one on his back this time. He nestles his face in Jensen's hair and breathes deep, so Jensen can feel strands of his hair flutter on the exhale. "Sleep's good."

Jensen worries, but not enough to keep him awake. So they sleep. Who's gonna see, the dogs? Jet lag and whiskey take him over and he passes out on Jared's chest, dead to the world.


Jensen dreams of British Columbia.

The air is chill and salted, a little snow on the ground. There's wide open horizons and trees there, and he and Sam tour around the fields and mountains free and clear, his Impala's tires crunching over gravel in the countryside. The wind is in his hair.

There's strength out there. In the motels, they never ask questions, just rent them a room and never ask why they share. It lends them solace, as if they can pretend that the work they do is acknowledged by everyone, tacitly. Maybe it's their attitude, or the fact that they talk like Texans sometimes, but there's a quiet nod, and then a key, and that's it.

He dreams of darkness, of lying helpless in it and of being touched. He can't see the hands, the mouth, the tongue, but it's there, it's all there, just where it ought to be. He feels fingers at his back, palm pressing against his cock, his cheek. It's rough and vital, searing his skin, and he presses against it, needing more. The sounds of sex are in his ears, sliding down his body and demanding that he take them, pay attention, touch. He wants so badly to see, just to see, but his head is turned, and he can't...

Jensen comes slowly out of the dream, feeling himself in a house, and then lying down, and then pressing his hips down into solid flesh and fisting fabric and he can hear his voice echoing in the silence.

He is saying: Jared, oh, God, Jared.

Underneath him, Jared is still as death.

Jensen freezes, panic rising in his gut. He shuts his eyes tighter, winces, waiting for the impact of a fist.

Seconds tick by.

Nothing.

When he cracks one careful eye open, he can immediately see that Jared is still asleep. His head is back, his eyes closed, his mouth just a little open. He looks concerned or worried, he's dreaming too, and the tension whooshes out of Jensen in a flood. Oh, thank God.

Not a moment too soon.

Because then Jared moves.

Jared presses an answering hardness up into Jensen's belly and whispers "Jen" into the dry, rain-scented air, and Jensen thinks he's going to maybe freak the fuck out. Right now, right this minute. Because that's dirty fucking pool, thanks, Satan, and human beings were not made to survive this kind of temptation and live, and who exactly had he pissed off lately?

It's just a dream, he repeats to himself, lifting carefully back so as not to jar Jared, wake him up. It's just a dream. People's subconscious minds make them do things in dreams that they would never do in real life, and if he wakes up like this with my mouth on his...

No. No. No. Stop thinking. Get up.

He pulls up, so slow. Jared's hands tense around the small of his back and yank him back down, and he makes this little grumpy noise and shifts irritably.

"Jared?" Jen figures he can maybe get out of this if he wakes the guy up, makes the conscious part be in charge, because that's the less sadistic part by far. "Jared, wake up."

"Mm?" Long lashes fan on his cheeks, his wide mouth twisting up a little in an expression of confusion, discontent. "Mm."

He lets Jensen go, and Jen gets up carefully, trying not to disturb him any more than necessary. It works out all right, and when he's finally standing he stretches, feels the pops and crunches in his back. There's a crick in his neck and even his ass hurts. Jesus. No more sleeping on couches.

He heads immediately for the shower. If he's lucky, Jared will sleep long enough for him to use up all his hot water. Subconscious or not, that was just plain evil.

He makes the spray hot as sin, and lets it wash away the trouble of the morning. It's an old claw foot tub, so it takes him a minute to learn how to lean against the wall, but the minute he does, he braces himself and takes himself in hand, stroking long and languid the way he likes. His knees about give out when he gets close, and the image of the bubblegum poster girl in his mind is shoved unceremoniously out by too-long hair, too-wide smile and too-long legs.

Jensen's toweling off before the water's even tepid, cursing a blue streak.


They top the rise together, looking out over Jared's property. Turns out it's a place that used to be in his mama's family some thirty years ago, and they were letting it go for a song, since for some reason it doesn't like to grow much more than grass. Something to do with the topsoil. And the house is maybe falling down a little. But Jared doesn't bother about that. What matters, he says, is that he can see from horizon to horizon, and the horses have room to run.

When he says that, Jensen notices him smile, and knows it's not about the horses.

Jensen's riding Curly, a spirited old bastard that'd soon spit in your eye as look at you. There was a set-to in the barn about that - Jensen said he could ride anything Jared could, and there was some innuendo and shoving there that wasn't good for Jen's constitution. Jared's on Pole, a hugely tall and lithe buff mare that matches him perfectly. She's a beauty, too.

"So," Jensen asks, reining in beside him. "You gonna tear down the house, build a new one?"

"Dude," Jared says, giving him a look, nonplussed. Jensen smiles at the Californianism - after a week back in Texas, it sounds almost unnatural. "I'd never tear it down. Fix it up, yeah, but did you see that bathtub? That thing is awesome! The whole house is like that. There's history there, man."

Jensen tries not to think about the bathtub.

"All right, all right. I get it. But you're gonna get it refurbished, right?"

"Oh, yeah," Jared says, urging his horse into a walk. Jen follows after, leaning back in his saddle a little, to balance. Curly grunts at him, and Jen glares and contemplates steering him by the ears, the ornery cuss. "I already had a guy in looking at the foundations," Jared continues. "They're solid. I wanna use the closed-off back rooms for stuff. I don't know what yet, but it's cool back there. Or it will be, once I knock out those walls. Even though I'm sure I'll be freaked to go in it once I watch the damn show."

They both laugh at that. They tease each other about being scared, they play up being scared when they are - it's a thing. They had a great time on Bloody Mary pretending to shriek and cling to each other whenever the actress playing the ghost came on set in her makeup. She really did look freaky, but less so when she laughed at them.

Hell, they both looked freaky with the blood tears running down their faces. Lots of joking that day - whistling in the dark.

They're just coming down the lee side of the rise when Pole shies. Jared hangs on, a regular rodeo king, but not long enough - he winds up on the ground, and Pole's galloping toward the house. Her frightened whinny mixes up with his grunt of pain as his ankle gives under him, and Jensen pulls in Curly, who's starting to get twitchy.

In the dirt, Jared's frozen. His eyes are fixed hard on the rattlesnake coiled not ten feet from him, scales shifting and rattle shivering up in the air.

Cautiously, Jensen swings down off his horse. They don't have any guns with them, but they should - Jared's been away from home too long, and Jensen didn't really have problems with rattlers in fucking Richardson.

He picks up a stick. It's not much, but it might do... something. Jared is still holding position, not moving an inch, and Jensen edges up to him so very slowly, and crouches down at his side. Behind them, Curly's moved off a ways, and is nibbling at the grass. Fucking horse.

They crouch there, barely breathing. Jensen holds the stick up, waiting for just a hint of motion.

The snake moves. Jensen almost brings the stick down, but stops himself in time to see it slither away from them, its coils collapsing in on themselves. With a final flick of its rattle, it is gone into the grass.

He helps Jared to his feet and they hobble off in Curly's direction, Jared's arm around Jen's shoulders, Jen holding onto his wrist. The tension's still hard in their chests, a tight knot. When they reach the horse, it whickers softly and pushes against Jared with its nose. Figures, Jensen thinks, that the damn thing's in love with him. He could probably ride it to Alabama and never hear a word of complaint. He wrestles the horse close enough and stands close so Jared can use him for balance as he clambers up, ungraceful and wincing. Jensen leads the horse back to the ranch house, and even hurries some, because there's a snake out there that didn't get a piece of them, and he doesn't intend to give it a second chance.

When they reach it, Jared thinks he can walk. On the dismount, he's proved wrong, and falls against Jensen, who's knocked over by the weight. They stumble down into the dust, laughing and wincing, because one's ankle hurts and one just got fallen on. Up in the house, they collapse on the couch and Jensen pulls off Jared's boot while Jared grits his teeth and tells Jen just to get on with it already. It's not too bad, Jen knows, it just needs to be up for a bit, maybe get a little ice. Jared insists it's fine, and Jensen reminds him who here used to be a personal trainer, or studying to be.

So they're set up in the living room, Jared's got his ice. They're playing poker for nickels; Jensen's up by a dollar-fifty. Jared's eyes peer at Jensen thoughtfully over the top of his cards.

"What?" Jensen asks, smiling. "You're not getting x-ray vision, are you? Psychic boy?"

Jared keeps looking at him steadily, which is weird. Jensen was expecting a 'shut up', or maybe a zing back, if Jared were feeling playful. He looks at Jared - what, man, what's up? - and Jared puts his cards down, looking at Jensen thoughtfully.

"Can I ask you something? And you don't get offended, okay?"

Jen puts his cards down too, totally confused. "Sure, man. What's up?"

"Do you like me?"

Oh, my God.

"Sure, I like you," he says, trying to make it easy, praying it's the simple thing. He studies his cards, attempting a smile. "You want me to help you move, right? Or paint this place? Man, they always rook you just when..."

Jared stops him with a hand on his cards. His eyes are looking into Jensen's soul, it seems, all over sincerity. Jared's always sincere, honest like that. Jensen doubts he could be fake if he tried. "No, Jen. I mean, do you like me?"

Jen stares at him, feels the heat of Jared's fingers burning against his own. "Wh... where's this comin' from?" He doesn't deny. He knows he'll never convince Jared of a denial. Not when he obviously knows.

"It's no big deal," Jared tells him, his tone all assurance. "I just want to know."

Their fingers are still touching.

"Could you..." Jensen puts down his cards and rubs a hand over his face. "Could you not make it sound like I'm gonna ask you to prom or something? It's not like that."

Jared smiles at the joke, but says nothing. He leaves his hands right where they are, just waiting for Jensen to say things.

Jensen looks at him, not sure what thing to say.

"So what is it, then?" Jared gently prompts, and Jensen's a little startled. He leans back against the sofa and sighs.

"I dunno, it's just... it's nothing, is what it is. It's just a stupid attraction that doesn't mean anything, okay? I mean, you're... we got to be good friends in the last little while, right?"

"Right." Jared looks patient and interested, like he's paying attention, and not offended at all.

Jensen feels the knot of terror in his chest loosen, just a little. "Okay. So it's nothin' that'd ever get in the way of that. Nothing that needs to... that should change anything. Okay?"

"Course," Jared says, his easy, puppy dog smile breaking across his face like the sunrise. "That's kind of what I thought... but I figured we should, y'know, get it out there. Otherwise you'd just punk right out."

The mocking tone is totally clear, and Jensen responds to it from pure habit. "Shut up," he says, feeling a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. And just like that, they're all right again.

The next few days pass in calm and quiet as they play at being ranchers and handymen. They get some things done, break some stuff, and Jared admits that he really does need a TV. They don't bring up the elephant in the room, because Jensen's the only one really paying attention. Jared seems to forget all about it, and that's just exactly right.

Jensen takes a little more time in the shower, and that's hardly a sacrifice.

It's four days before they have to be on a plane, and they're in a bar, drinking and playing darts. No girls, no dance floor, no line dancing, just guys having a good old time in good old Texas, and Jensen feels a hand on his shoulder.

"What's goin' on, boys?"

Jensen turns around and feels the face he sees like a punch in the gut, and he can't say why.

"Jared? This is Chris Kane. Chris, Jared Padalecki."

Jared shakes Chris's hand, world-class sucker kind of grin on his face. Jensen mentally facepalms. Man, if I were Dean, you'd be the easiest mark in the room.

"Hey, man. You and Jen are old friends, right?"

Chris just shakes Jared's hand. "Yeah," he says, smooth and easy. "He used to sing with us."

"Yeah, I read that somewhere."

Jensen can feel the world shifting, angling down. He feels his feet slipping on the incline. He's back on the ranch, Jared can't move and there's a rattlesnake smiling at them. He wants his stick. And in the next moment, he's cursing himself, because Chris is a damn good friend to him, and he shouldn't be thinking shit like that.

"So what're you doin' down in San Antone, Chris?" Jensen drawls out the name of the town, kidding around.

Chris isn't fooled. It's in his eyes when he looks at Jensen, way too perceptive. "Well, we had a gig yesterday. I stuck around to ring in the New Year with some friends of mine, but it fell through. Steve's on his way to L.A. I was gonna see about swingin' back down to Dallas, but your folks said you'd come here."

Jared and Jensen trade a glance. "What day is it?" Jensen asks.

Jared checks his watch, but Chris speaks up. "Man, you guys had your heads in the sand, huh? It's the thirty-first."

"And about two hours to 2006," Jared confirms. Glancing around the bar, he makes his I-get-it face. "Hey, that's why everyone's so happy." It's true - their bar should be full of winos and gloom and people brooding into beer, but instead there's smiling faces, and Jensen flushes slightly when he realizes he didn't notice.

"We need another pitcher," Jensen says brightly. "Chris, you can take my game if you want?" He's off for the bar before anybody says a word, feeling like he's escaping, a temporary reprieve.

A gig, my ass, he thinks, standing at the bar and looking back at his friends. Jared offers Chris the darts and Chris smiles at him and lines up. Jensen feels a totally irrational rage boil up in him and stomps on it.

Chris makes a bull's-eye on the first throw.

They play darts and drink. Jensen drinks more than he should and not twenty minutes have gone by before Jared takes the glass out of his hand. "You're not gonna be able to drive my drunk ass home if you keep that up." He drains the pint and Jensen watches his mouth on the glass, the way his throat works, and forgets all about who was supposed to be the designated driver here.

Chris passes him the darts. "Your turn."

Jensen could swear it isn't and glares at him.

Chris just looks back, cool and level as he raises an eyebrow. It's a conversation without words.

Jensen scowls and takes his shots. He buries the first one in the wall. "Goddammit."

Chris wipes his hands on his jeans. "Well. Thanks for the game, fellas, but I gotta be getting back. Jared, nice meeting you." He sticks out his hand and Jared shakes it, looking confused.

"I thought you said your plans fell through?"

"Yeah, I did."

"Well, then, why don't you...?"

Chris interrupts him. "Thanks all the same, man, but I think you probably ought to get that one home. Leave him here and he'll be puking his guts up in an alley by the time the ball drops."

Jensen glares at him again. "I am not that drunk," he says, precision making him sound like the city boy he is.

When Jared pulls Chris into an unexpected hug, Jensen wants to fucking kill one of them. Maybe both. Jared takes one big, heavy hand and claps it on Chris's shoulder. "You take care, all right? And thanks for coming."

Chris looks a little taken aback, a little shocked, but Jared's doing that sincere and honest thing again, and nobody can resist that. "No problem," he says quietly, and claps Jared back. They both sound like they know exactly what the other one's talking about, and Jensen slouches against the wall and tries to pretend he doesn't have a suspicion niggling at the back of his head. Fucking friends. Annoying bastards, all of 'em. "You all right to drive?" Chris is asking.

Jen's about to answer, but Jared cuts him off. "Yeah, I'm all right." Jen seethes, realizing that Chris was talking to Jared to begin with.

Chris nods in Jared's direction and then turns. "Jensen," he says, in the tone of goodbye, his hand out in front of him.

Jen deliberates for a split second and then takes that hand, because his pissy mood isn't worth it, it just isn't. Down low, he knows it isn't Chris he's angry at, and even though he's still angry, he's not about to deny the guy a handshake. "See you soon, man. Come out and see us if you're in the neighborhood."

Chris just laughs. "Yeah, cause I get up Vancouver way all the damn time."

"You never know." Jen smiles wryly and he and Jared watch Chris head out. When he's gone, Jared turns on him.

"Come on." He takes Jensen by the shoulder, by the shirt, grabs their jackets in the other hand.

"Where are we going?" Jen asks, feeling - okay, Chris, okay - a little less steady on his feet than he thought he would be.

Jared sounds irritated, doesn't look that happy either, and Jensen starts to worry. "Home."

"Why? It isn't even..."

"Just shut up and get in the car, Jensen."

They drive back in uncomfortable silence. Jensen keeps glancing over at Jared, trying to figure out what he's mad about - and he is mad, staring out at the road with a grim set to his mouth.

"What is it, man?"

"Nothing."

Jensen rolls his eyes at the clipped tone and just waits it out. He's not about to get into a fight in the car. They roll out past the adobes and into the country, heading up the highway. Headlights play over the green grass and the blacktop, and the cool night air slips through the cracks in Jared's rental. Jensen thinks he must hate that - he's such a gearhead.

They pull into the gravel drive some time later, and nobody's said a word. Jared puts it into park and turns in his seat to look Jensen in the eye. "Listen. You're an idiot."

Jensen's eyebrows pull together irritably. Jared isn't teasing. "What? Why?"

"Chris came all that way to see you, and you just let him take off like that? He didn't even have plans on New Year's, man." Jared glares at him reproachfully, and Jensen has to stifle the urge to laugh that bubbles up in his chest.

"Jared," he starts carefully. "You gotta understand. Me and Chris aren't like that."

Jared looks at him flatly. "You're telling me you guys never got together." It's rhetorical, if it's a question at all.

Jensen flushes. There are few conversations he'd less rather have than this one. "Well... no, I'm not saying that. But..."

"Save it," Jared says, and opens his door. It slams behind him as he stalks up to the house, and Jen's more than a little confused.

"Jared?" he calls, getting out of the car and hurrying after him up to the darkened house, still a little unsteady on his feet. "Jared, wait."

He just keeps walking. Jensen catches up to him on the porch and he rounds on Jen, gets right up in his face. "I thought you were a good guy, man. That's a piece of shit way to treat someone who likes you."

"He doesn't like me," Jensen yells back, exasperated. "He's in love with someone else, a guy named David. We're just friends, Jared, not that it's any of your goddamned business, or anything. Jesus, what are you, my mother?" Jared blinks at him a little, looking suspicious, but like he's entertaining the idea. Jensen out of patience, warming up to his subject and feeling the anger from earlier in the night mixing with the booze still in his system. "You wanna keep coming at me for shit I didn't do? We're in the right place for a lynch mob! Go on, round up the posse, Shurrif, I'll wait. Hell, I'll git out the dogs, there's gonna be a whuppin!"

"Hey," Jared warns, low and serious, pointing a finger at him. "That's enough."

Blessedly, Jen isn't drunk enough to not know when he's treading on dangerous ground. He puts his hands up, you win, fine, and spins on his heel. He heads to the other side of the porch, leans his hands on the rail and looks out at the plain. Behind him, Jared's boots fall softly on the old boards. Jensen doesn't turn around.

"Sorry," Jared says, quiet. It almost irks Jensen, how easily Jared can forget about stuff like this, be the good guy. "Can we put it behind us? I don't want to..."

"Yeah," Jensen interrupts. His chest feels heavy; he doesn't want to fight anymore. He's had plenty of fighting, and today feels like it's knocked him around enough. Right now he just wants to relax with a friend, get some sleep before hiatus is over, have a good time. This isn't it, and it won't be until they can bury this. If Jared wants to do that, Jen's all for it. "Yeah, of course."

He turns and puts out his hand, but Jared pulls him into a hug instead, because he's Jared. Jen smiles and puts his arms around Jared's back, holds him close. Jared's hugs are big and warm and enveloping; they make you forget about anything else. The best kind.

Behind Jensen's head, Jared's watch beeps, and it breaks the moment. Jared pulls back and looks at Jensen with his wrists crossed behind Jen's neck, that easy smile on his face - if it isn't trademarked to him, it should be. Jensen feels relief uncurl in him.

"Happy New Year, Jen."

Jared leans in and kisses him.

They've kissed before. Like that night in Dallas, just last week: stupid stuff for an audience, just clowning around. Jared isn't a bad kisser, but it hasn't been anything like this. His mouth is gentle and easy, one of his hands cupping the back of Jensen's neck. It's a simple kiss, almost chaste, but not quite.

It is so sensual, it about takes Jensen's knees out from under him. There is no world around him, there is no porch or trace of starlight on the rippling grass. There is only Jared, head dipped down, standing close enough that Jen can feel the heat of him radiating out. Jensen is instantly destroyed.

And then Jared pulls back. What seemed like an hour has been about four seconds. He smiles gently and brushes a thumb across Jensen's cheek, and then turns and walks into the house.

Jensen needs to sit down, he knows. After that, he is contemplating howling in frustration so loud he will scare the bobcats. Maybe breaking something into many tiny little pieces. Something important, like the car.

In the end, he walks patiently into the house and tells Jared he's turning in early. He has a very cold shower before bed, and when that doesn't work he warms up the water and has the other kind of shower. That almost helps.


"Maybe we should go back early."

Jared looks at Jensen quizzically over his cards, when did you go crazy?

Jen just shrugs. After a second, he throws his cards down. "I'm goin' stir-crazy, man. I gotta do something, this is making me nuts."

Jared folds 'em and leans back, looks at Jensen assessingly. Jen is irritated for a second, how Jared doesn't really need to talk to say anything, hello, people invented English for a reason. But in the next breath, he knows it's not Jared's fault. He's just got to get out of this house.

"Okay," Jared finally says, a big smile easing his mouth up. "Go get your purse."

"Shut up," Jen smirks back, but he's already moving. Anything, he thinks, just get me out of here.

They drive into the city, Jared at the wheel again. He won't tell Jen where they're going, and Jen gets excited despite himself, for the novelty, if nothing else. When Jared pulls up to the private entrance of Dillard's on the Riverwalk, Jensen about jumps out of his skin. Much as he loves riding, days on end in the country with nothing but a tremendously hot man he can't fuck is about to drive him spare.

Civilization. Thank God.

They spend hours there. Jared lounges in one of the chairs in the little sitting room they provide and eats all their pastry while Jensen picks out clothes and models them for himself in front of the mirror. Jared endures the questions about the cut of the shoulders, the way it falls in the back, with a remarkable patience and only a very few comments equating Jen to a girl.

For those, Jen throws reject clothes at him. It's the only acceptable solution.

After about three of those hours, Jared gets bored and starts sending clothes back for Jensen to try. Some of them are stupid - pirate shirts and polka-dotted pants that provoke some truly funny back-and-forths - but some of them are surprisingly astute choices. At one point, Jensen holds up a pair of leathers and tries to decide which category they fall into. He tries them on and they look surprisingly good, clinging to his thighs and calves just right. Jared raises his eyebrows and says they're tighter than bark on a tree, and Jensen rolls his eyes.

He buys those.

He also buys a bunch of other stuff, and the back of the car is loaded with bags when they leave in the cooling afternoon.

They hit the Sony store and a hardware place, and when they return to the ranch, they fuck around hooking up a big, unwieldy backup generator and almost electrocute themselves twice. After that, they load the big TV in the front door, and thanks to the generator, it's got enough juice to power it. Jared attempts chili, and Jensen hovers behind him making "suggestions". Finally, Jared shoves the spoon into his hand and tells him if he's going to fuck around, you'd think he'd have the decency to at least give a little back.

Jensen doesn't comment on that, but does take the spoon and improve the chili. Jared says it doesn't taste any different, but he's wrong.

After, Jared digs out the little gizmos that hook the PSPs up to the TV, and they play deep into the night, laughing and snarling at the screen, and at each other. Jared falls asleep on the couch waiting for his turn at Super Mario. Seeing that, Jen turns everything off, grabs Jared a blanket and puts himself to bed. It's a good day.


Sam is standing next to him. They look out over the lake, knowing how cold it is and dreading going in.

Sam turns to him. "You wanna make out?"

"What?!" He's appalled. His brother!

"Well, we gotta warm up before we go in there, man." His tone's very reasonable, and for some reason it seems to make much more sense this time around - like oh, he meant that. Well, that's different.

He puts his arms around Sam uncomfortably, but then Sam kisses him and it's easier. He holds onto the flannel, the sweatshirt hoodie, feels the fabric between his fingers and his body heating up, as promised. It's comforting. They know what to do. They'll take care of it.

But then something's wrong - it's too hot. He feels like his skin's radiating, red and wavering in the air like the Texas highway in the summer, and that's not right, that's not here. "Sam..."

He looks at his brother, and they're both worried and nervous, and then searing pain grips him just as Sam shouts out in pain, as a black grinning devil cuts them across the belly and they burst into flames.

"Jared! Jared!"

"Hey, hey, wake up. Jensen, wake up, it's just a dream." Jen's shivering, covered in sweat. Jared's big hands are on his shoulder, his chest, shaking him even as the low voice, rumbling on the road out of sleep, settles in his ears. "Come on back, man. Just a dream."

Jensen's in his bed, in the guest room at Jared's house. Here he is, and they're both fine.

He falls back onto his pillows with a groan, his hand over his eyes, rubbing softly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

"Hey, no problem," Jared says, yawning. "You leave that nightmare shit to me, okay? I'm better at it." He reaches over to tousle Jensen's hair and Jen moves out of the way, like habit.

Jared's hand ends up on Jen's chest, one thumb stroking softly over his sternum. Jen quiets, and then that voice comes again from Jared's shadowed face. There's only a sliver of moonlight seeping in the windows, touching his hair. Jen can't see anything but that. "Your heart's goin' like a jackrabbit," Jared observes, quietly.

"Yeah." The fear's seeping out of him, cold bringing warmth in its wake, spreading over his chest and down into his belly. It's not good, he's distantly aware. "I'm okay now. Go on back to bed."

Jared sits there, rubbing his thumb back and forth, back and forth, hypnotizing. Jen lies still, trying to catch a glimpse of Jared's eyes, but there's only blackness.

"Kay," Jared finally says, patting Jen's chest. "No more dreaming, okay?"

"Yeah."

His door closes, and then he turns over and is back asleep, almost instantly. He dreams, breaking his word, but they're not the kind that tinge his words with fear, and he sleeps through till morning.

The next day, the sky is an ominous, gun metal gray that crackles with electricity. It's going to storm.

They fight.

It's over something stupid. Jensen wants to make breakfast and Jared accuses him of thinking he's incompetent, just bitchy. Jen gets too offended and before they know it, they're shouting at each other in the tiny kitchen, sour faces and bitterness on their lips. They storm off into the house and slam the doors.

Jensen's packing his bags to go and trying to figure out how to get an airport shuttle to come all the way out here when Jared knocks on his door and apologizes. He says it's his fault, and Jensen tries to say it isn't, but he's still pissed. Jared's still pissed too, but they can both see it's not really the other one's fault. Something is in the air.

Jared suggests they take the horses out, and they do. They gallop across the terrain together, but they ride a ways apart. It's enough to keep an eye out, if anything should go wrong, but they're finding a kind of freedom out there, trying for alone. The wind whips their hair.

Finally, they can see the big, black smudge of clouds coming up on them, and they ride back to the house. They're just getting in as the fat drops start splashing onto them, and when they get in, the barn cat runs in with them. Jared didn't know he had a barn cat. She's black and white, a little scarred up and mean-looking, but otherwise a pretty thing. He decides to call her Witch.

The dogs start barking when the lightning comes. Jensen makes a pained face, and they trade a few pissy words about that, but it stops before it gets too far. They don't dare turn on the generator in a lightning storm, so the TV's out, and neither of them's very interested in poker. Jared retreats to the far end of the house with a book. Jensen stands at the window with Witch and watches the storm until it gets boring, and then he goes to bed. It's only seven at night, but he can't think of anything else to do.


Dawn on the last day is golden.

Jensen greets it as it comes, a steaming cup of coffee in his hand, out on the porch. The ranch smells of rain and rich earth, and when the sky turns pink and gold and blue, it seems quieter. Calmer. Safer.

He slept and slept and slept. Hiatus is meant to refresh them, and he feels that. It's been a weird time, but what doesn't break you.

Jared comes out with his own mug just as the sun leaves the earth. He looks mussed and bedheaded, and Jen smiles to see it. "Hey, little brother." Jared makes a face, and touches his shoulder to Jen's, like he'd shove, but he's too sleepy. Jen puts an arm around him, smiling. "How'd you sleep?"

"Okay," Jared says, leaning his cheek on Jen's head. He's just like a big dog, Jen thinks; friendly and approachable and all contact. It's nice. He likes it, no matter the other stuff.

The day passes in bucolic splendor. They ride the horses again and muck out the stalls together, do some other basic maintenance. It's mostly because they want to - Jared's got people who do this - but it's good, hard work, and they've been pretty lazy the last couple of weeks. They kid each other about Christmas dinners, about looking pudgy, even though neither of them do. At the end of the day, they're buzzing and tired and pleasantly sore. They drive into town and pick up some beer, a DVD player and a couple of movies. The night is quiet and pleasant and friendly. Witch and the dogs even watch with them, dogs at Jared's feet and Witch up on the back of the couch over Jensen's shoulder. She's taken to him, even if she does scratch him up a little. Jared plays with the dogs all night, and it doesn't bother Jensen at all.


Soft light plays over Jen's eyelids, rousing him from a deep and pleasant dream that he can't remember. He is aware of being warm, comfortable, and he shifts against Jared's body and sighs, contented.

"Morning."

Jen pries one eye open and finds himself on the couch, again, tangled up limbs and all. Jared's on top this time, arm curled under Jen's far shoulder, holding him close. His warm eyes are close, and look as sleepy as he feels.

"Man, I hate falling asleep on the couch. Soon as I move, I'm gonna remember I'm old."

Jared chuckles and it shivers through both their rib cages, pressed together. With a grunt, he tries to get up, but his arms are as tired as he is and he slips, falling forward onto Jensen again, who groans and laughs as he touches down. "Ohhh, God, get off, you fat bastard."

Jared grinds his shoulders and chest down against Jen's, and they're both laughing. "Get off!" "Make me." "I will, fucker." "Let's see it, tough guy." "Don't make me hurt you." "Come on, little fella, keep it up." "Shut up!"

Jared hits the ground with a thud and a groan, laughing. Jen lifts his eyebrows. See what happens?

They pack the house up. It's a little melancholy, they'll miss it, even if it wasn't all peaches and candy. Jensen pets Witch goodbye as Jared loads the dogs into their carriers, and then the house is behind them. And then Texas is too.


Jensen doesn't see Jared much in the week after. He sees a lot of Sam, but Jared's quiet and withdrawn, lost in thought. Jen chalks it up to the breakup - he knows Jared came home to an empty apartment, the boxes of things they picked up in San Antonio waiting for him, but not unpacked. He's been cutting him a lot of slack, trying not to pick on him.

It's the weekend now, which is to say it's Saturday night, and they shoot second unit on Sunday, most of the time. Monday, they'll be back in. As they were wrapping for the night, Jared leaned over in his chair and asked Jensen if he wanted to stop by, maybe shoot a few games of pool on the new table. Of course, Jen had immediately agreed.

He steps through the door cautiously. There was no answer when he knocked, but it's unlocked. "Jared?"

"Sorry! Back here!" The voice is muffled, coming from the back of the apartment, so Jen closes the door behind him and toes off his boots. It's the way of Canada, and he actually kind of likes not tracking mud all over everything, so he does it.

He passes the living room on his way down the hall - it's bare. Not like the Circle P bare, but literally, bare. Everything is gone - except for one of the San Antonio area rugs. He raises an eyebrow and heads down the hallway, until he finds a door cracked open, warm light spilling through.

"What's going on?" he asks, pushing the door open with his fingers.

And then he stops.

Jared's standing up against a wall of the room, hanging the Corona sign they bought. He's stripped to the waist and sweating, his hair sticking to the back of his neck, his temples. He's holding a screwdriver between his bared teeth, flushed and maybe a little angry. "Fucking bitch of a thing... gimme a hand, would you?"

Jensen shakes his head and steps forward. He isn't really prepared for Jared holding the sign up in one hand, grabbing Jensen by the wrist and dragging him in between Jared and the wall. Close quarters doesn't begin to describe it.

"Hold it right where it is," Jared instructs, and Jensen blindly obeys, shocked right out of words. Jared leans above him, his chest touching Jensen's back, and puts in the screws, drilling them into the wall using just the strength in his arms. This close, Jensen can tell that the wetness on him is mostly water - he must have showered right before Jen showed up.

"We going somewhere?" he asks slowly, trying to make his brain catch up with the impossible situation.

Jared presses him closer to the wall, tightening his screws. "Nope. It's not much, but it's starting to come together. There."

With a satisfied sigh, Jared stands back and gives Jensen room to breathe, which Jen takes advantage of with not a little relief. Jared, meanwhile, moves over to a short bar that Jen hadn't noticed earlier (distracted) and flips a switch on it. The Corona sign lights up, and Jared grins. "So! What do you think?" He opens his arms wide, and it takes Jensen a minute to realize he's talking about the room.

It actually looks pretty good, when Jen checks it out. Here's the missing furniture - black couches, full A/V setup, the aforementioned bar. The pool table they bought is set up in one corner - it's a big room, actually. He doesn't remember seeing it before.

And then he realizes Jared had a wall knocked out to make room... and another one built? This used to be a bedroom, and part of the dining room...

He's still puzzling it out when Jared's arms come around him from behind and lift him off the floor. "Dude!" Jensen's kicking and wrestling around, trying to get out of the hold, but Jared's holding on strong, laughing.

"Come on, grand tour!"

Jen barks out a short laugh and shoves at him. "You're gonna have a grand tour of my fist if you don't put me down, asshole!"

His feet hit the ground and Jared tries to get him in a headlock, but that he escapes, hip-checking Jared up against the wall instead. They bounce around, smiling, even as Jen tries to make sure his hands don't linger.

Jared's skin is golden brown and smooth.

"Why don't you have a shirt on?"

"Waiting for you, loverboy."

"Shut up."

"You shut up."

Jared takes him through the rest of the house (pulling on one of his old, printed t-shirts on the way through the bedroom) and Jen's impressed. He's changed only a few very small things, but they've made a huge difference in the layout, in how things are put together. "I wanted it to be different," Jared says contemplatively, and Jensen nods. He gets it.

Lots of stuff is boxed up in the corners, so it wouldn't get broken or fucked with when the work was being done. Jared says he'll unpack it later, but for now it's fun doing Risky Business on the hardwood. He slides in sock feet to demonstrate - both of them wear socks in Canada, because it's too fucking cold not to - and Jensen's heart about stops.

Why does he have to be so fucking pretty? Why? "Man, you sure you don't want to go out somewhere, or something?"

"No way, man. We've got everything right here." He pauses, and then looks at Jensen hesitantly. "Unless you want to go out somewhere...?"

"Nah, it's okay," Jen assures him. "You got anything to eat in this pit?"

Jared lights up. "I do, actually." He manhandles Jensen into the kitchen, and Jen is really starting to wish that he'd either quit with the touching or stop... smelling so good.

Or... neither of those things.

Dammit.

In the last week, he has had many opportunities to fuck anonymous strangers, and casual acquaintances, and friends.

He has turned every one of them down.

He has reasons, but they're not fooling anybody. It's just a crush, he tells himself. It'll fade. But right now, he's starting to wish he'd been a little less, y'know, stupid, and taken somebody up on it, because Jared is warm and hard at his back and life has it in for him.

They arrive in the kitchen, Jared's big, spacious kitchen that looks nothing like the little cramped thing they had at the ranch. Spread across the black marble island is three platters, and Jen's stomach growls at him. Eat that now.

One sushi, one tempura, one melon and assorted fruit. They got hooked on sushi when they came up to Vancouver, both of them, hardcore.

"Oh, man," Jensen breathes. "You do know the way to a man's heart."

Jared laughs softly. "I guess so."

Jen squints at him. "Okay. What do you want? I'm not puttin' out just because you paid for dinner."

There's a moment - just a moment - when Jared looks a little dumbstruck. A little wait, what? But then how...

It fades in the next moment, and he just smiles. "Eat the fish, stupid."

Jensen laughs and they grab the platters and head back to the room they started at. Jen sits down on a couch as Jared goes to pick out a movie, and can't help but notice they're very long, from back to front. They're almost like daybeds, but lower to the ground - if you wanted to sleep on one, you would have lots of room. Almost like a twin bed amount of room.

Also, they're new.

Jared returns with Fast and the Furious, the Matrix and Tombstone. Jen picks Tombstone, and they settle in.

The sushi's incredible, but Jensen soon has trouble concentrating on it, or the movie. Jared's got a little pile of sushi in front of him and he's feeding the chunks of fish into his mouth like they're fucking marzipan. He licks his fingers and his lips, eyes flicking between the sushi, and the movie, and Jensen. For some reason, when he glances toward Jen, he looks almost nervous.

He has nothing to be nervous about. Holy shit.

Jensen tries to concentrate. On screen, Doc Holliday is doing the trick with the shot glass, and Jen remembers the slavering crush he developed on the guy when he was younger. He would lie in bed, watching the movie before bedtime, and he never did have any nightmares, like his parents said he would. (He was sixteen years old, for pete's sake.) Matter of fact, he slept like the dead.

This train of thought is not helping him.

He shifts uncomfortably, drawing Jared's eyes. He tries to wave him off, but Jared's leaning in, close to his ear, smelling like salt and pineapple. Jensen can feel the heat of him through his shirt. "Want a drink?"

"Yeah," Jen chokes out. "Yeah, a drink would probably be good."

Jared disappears, and returns with a bottle of tequila and two shot glasses. "We can chase with the fruit."

What did I ever do to you, God? Oh, man, just shoot me now.

Jared pours out the shots and hands one to Jen. "Go, man."

"I need some..." He shakes a finger in the direction of the melon and Jared waves him off, picking up a piece of cantaloupe.

"I got it covered, man, just go."

Jensen shakes his head and puts the shot back. It's good tequila, but all tequila is bottled evil, so he shakes his head and winces. The cantaloupe touches his lips, and he takes it instinctively, not realizing until the last second what that means.

Jared slides his index finger out of Jensen's mouth way, way too slowly, his eyes half-closed as he studies the place where they join. When the wet pad of his finger strokes across Jensen's bottom lip, Jen actually jumps. "Hey, Jared?"

"Yeah?" His voice is low, thunder, liquid sex.

"What're you doing?"

"I'm hitting on you, Jensen." Jen has no response for that. Jared blushes a little, but his chin is high, his eyes challenging. He's not joking.

"Oh."

He is moving before the word is finished coming out of his mouth. He leans toward Jared, slides a hand around the back of his neck and pulls him in. When their lips touch, it's like dinner and music and dancing and Texas storms. It's like Pro 18 World Tour Golf between takes. It's like shouting at each other over who gets to scramble the goddamned eggs.

It's perfect.

Jared is pressing against him, hot and necessary. The kiss turns savage fast - Jensen's waited too long to take it slow. He attacks Jared's mouth, doing the things he has wanted to do before it is too late, before Jared changes his mind or Jensen's higher logic and morality functions can regain control. He holds Jared by those impossibly muscled arms, feels them smooth under his palms as Jensen kisses him down into the couch.

He falls like water.

Jen moves onto Jared's jaw, his neck, feeling the stubble scrape at his lips. The taste of him is heady, drawing Jen on, twisting his heart up. He feels Jared's hands touch his shoulders, hesitant then gripping hard; hears the raw sigh when he bites down softly. He murmurs Jared's name and feels it sink into his skin.

"Slow down," Jared says, and Jen raises his head, trying to clear the fog from his eyes. He said what now? Jared's mouth curves shyly and he lets his hair fall into his eyes. "We got all night."

Jen looks at him incredulously and moves in to kiss him again, feel that mouth open up under his. Jared groans and Jen savors it like wine on his tongue. "I been waiting months to do this," he whispers against Jared's lips, kisses between words. It's true, he knows. Since they did the scene in the old house in Lawrence, with Mom, and they went for beer after and didn't talk. Since the bar fight, when Jared tried to pull some karate thing and broke his hand, just because the guy was coming up on Jen from behind. Since the minute he met Jared, and they were told they needed to be close. Intimate. Brothers in arms, two men against all the evil in the world - that they needed to be together.

"We can wait later."

He slides down to Jared's neck again, opens his mouth over the hot pulse point, twists his fingers into Jared's t-shirt and pulls it up. The hard stomach he reveals is so hot, Jen feels like it's burning his hand. "God, Jared..."

A hand in his hair drags him up, brings them face-to-face, and Jared meets his eyes searchingly. It's just an instant, dark eyes reading Jen's, and Jen is sure they can see every secret, every hidden, forgotten part of him. And then Jared drags him down again, kisses him like he's starving and Jen is a seven-course meal. Jen groans and shifts his hips against Jared's and thinks Jared can read any damn thing he wants.

Jen's hands are busy, pulling Jared's t-shirt up. He drags himself off that mouth and hesitates - Jared's eyes are heavy, his lips shining and kiss-bruised, and he looks so damn good. Jen finds the strength, somehow, to turn away.

He slides down Jared's too-long body, pulling the shirt up with his thumbs. Jared lifts a little and helps, pulling the shirt off over his head. It leaves his hair sticking up all over, and for once, Jen doesn't want to tease him. What he does want to do is give that hair a good fucking reason for behaving like that, preferably by curling it around his fingers while Jared's mouth is...

God. Focus.

He kisses his way down Jared's chest, surprisingly wide for how thin he seems. He smells soap and clear water, the skin as smooth and soft as he could want - either Jared's naturally like that, which doesn't seem likely, or (and please, yes) he shaved, because he knew Jensen was coming. Please, he thinks, let it be that. Let him have stood in the shower, naked, thinking of Jen like this: licking a soft path over the slight dips and swells, running his hands over hard muscle, finding a nipple and dragging his tongue over it. Jared sucks in a breath, his back arching, and Jen thinks it might not be impossible, not by a long shot.

"Maybe we should... take this to the bedroom," Jared groans, and Jen can feel fists at his back, gripping the fabric of his shirt and pulling it tight. He glances up, rests his chin in the middle of Jared's chest.

"If you think," he grins, his hand slipping down Jared's side, over his hip, "for even one second, that I'm movin', you are pure crazy."

"But," Jared tries, and then shivers as Jen's hand digs into his waistband, pulling at his belt. "Oh, man... Jen, wait, wait a second..."

Of course, Jen immediately stops. He studies Jared's face, trying not to worry. "You all right?"

Jared just breathes, carefully lets go of Jen's shirt and smoothes his hands over the muscle there. "It's just," he says, looking at the ceiling. "It's just... new. That's all."

Jensen freezes. "What do you mean, new..." But he gets it. He means new like new. New like he's never done this with a guy before and he's freaking out that it means he's a queer, new.

Jensen lets him go and carefully starts to get up. Jared's hands are in his shirt precisely one second later, dragging him back. "Oh, no. Don't you think you're going anywhere."

Jen pushes at him, feeling a little sick. "Come on, man. I'm not doing this."

"What? Why?" Jared lets him get up, but he sits right up after him, all soulful eyes and sincerity.

Jen can't look at him. "I don't know what you were trying to do here, Jared, but I'm not... I can't be that guy, okay? I can't be the guy that makes you..." He trails off, drags a hand over his lips to take the taste of Jared away. It doesn't work.

"What? Gay?" Jared sounds incredulous, like he can't believe what he's hearing. "Well, it's a bit late for that kinda attitude."

Jen looks up at him, confused. "What are you talking about?"

He unfolds that long body over the couch again, leaning back and relaxing. Jen's eyes flick down to the obvious bulge in his jeans, and then guiltily away. "I'm not gay," he starts. "Or I guess I didn't use to be. I never looked at a guy and thought, 'oh, man, he's hot.' And I still don't, not to damage your fragile ego."

"Fuck off."

Jared takes that in stride as the casual, habitual insult it was meant as, and continues. "But I always just thought it was... remember, in San Antonio, I asked you if you liked me?" Jen nods. "Well, knowing that you saw me like that, after that, I guess... it was like I had permission to look back at you. I mean, I knew you wouldn't kick my ass if you caught me, y'know? And when I started looking..."

Jared gives Jen a once-over - a long, lingering survey of body by eyes - and takes a long, slow breath. "I guess I kind of liked it." His cheeks flush, and Jen can see him struggle not to look away. His eyes flick back and forth between Jensen's and the floor, the sushi, the screen, but they keep coming back, a little shy, but determined to hold up his end of this bargain, not to look down.

Jen thinks he's never seen anything more erotic in his life. Jared, the little bastard, is killing him.

God. Dammit.

"But..."

"No," Jared interrupts, sitting up. He leans over to Jen, getting up close, and Jen turns his head toward him on instinct. Jared moves closer. "No but. I want this, and you do too. So just do yourself a favor: shut up..." and he moves just that extra inch to brush his mouth over Jensen's as he whispers, "...and kiss me."

That is more than any red-blooded man can stand. Jensen grabs Jared by the shoulder, the hair, and kisses him for all he's worth.

They fall back on the couch, Jensen underneath this time, and he clutches at Jared's skin and groans hard. Jared's fucking with the buttons on his shirt, trying to get them open, and Jen just takes the sides in both hands and rips them apart, the buttons tinging off Jared's coffee table. Jen can afford a new fucking shirt, and Jared's hands plunge greedily inside, running over his body.

"Okay," Jen murmurs, kissing Jared's neck. "Okay. Where's the bedroom?"

Jared wastes not a second in standing and hauling Jen up by the arm after him. He drags them down a hall and through a door, and Jen has a brief glimpse of a tasteful buff-cream-tan-black scheme before Jared shoves him, and he's rolling onto the big king bed. Jared's right behind him, all long-limbed and gorgeous as he climbs across the covers. They reach for each other, kiss again, deep and full of intent, and then Jen's trailing his fingers down Jared's belly, over the little glossy trail of hair he still has there. "Okay?" he checks, his fingers brushing the Texas belt buckle, and Jared takes a breath, and then nods.

"Do it."

Jen pulls it apart, mouth at Jared's collarbone. Jared copies him, running his tongue into that little hollow, and Jen has the urge to laugh, but there's a button falling open under his fingers, and then a zipper, and nothing is funny right now. "Lay down," he demands roughly, and pushes at Jared's shoulder. Jared falls onto his back, pulls Jen toward him with one hand. Jen has to pull that hand away so he can stay up.

"Just give me a second," he says, and he sits on his heels, drinking in the sight. Jared's eyes are black and half-closed, his mouth red and open, just a little. His hair's falling in his face again, and that little track of dark hair goes all the way down, slipping into his shorts where his jeans gape open, the buckle pulling the fabric to the side. Jen can see the rise where Jared's cock waits for him, hard and hot and ready. He reaches up, meets Jared's eyes, slips his fingers over narrow hips, under the denim and white elastic, and he waits.

"Tell me okay."

Jared looks straight at him, and he's not blushing. "Okay."

Jen can't help but crack a smile. "Is that 'okay, I'll tell you,' or 'okay...'"

That big old grin breaks over Jared's face and he swats Jen across the top of the head. "God, you're such a moron."

"Yeah, maybe," Jen agrees amiably, and starts to gently lift and pull away the fabric. "But I'm the moron about to suck your dick. So you better be nice to me." He grins, wolfish, and is highly satisfied to see Jared just nod, speechless, and lift his hips.

Jen helps the jeans away, Jared kicking at them, and they fall by the side of the bed with a jangle of change and belt.

He is beautiful.

Long, long legs look even better sprawled out naked over the bed, and his narrow hips are slim and soft - a little darker than Jen expected. And then his cock, long like the rest of him, and so hard that there's a glistening smudge of precome on his belly, just under the flushed head.

Jen licks one long strip up the length of him and tastes tequila again in his mouth. Jared groans and Jen feels hands in his hair, touching but not pressing. He reaches up and puts one hand over Jared's, smiles up at him and closes his hand, making Jared's fist close, feeling the pull on his head.

And then he takes the tip of Jared's cock into his mouth, licking away the taste of him, and those fingers in his hair tighten all on their own. "Aw, fuck, Jensen..."

Jen pulls lightly at Jared with his mouth, slides down on him and slips his tongue back and forth, much as he can. He swirls around the head and squeezes the shaft with his hand, putting tricks into use he's picked up here and there, wanting Jared to get how good it can be. Wanting to make Jared useless, speechless, putty in his hands, a squirming mess of nerves and desperation, so he might come even close to how fucking turned on Jensen is.

It doesn't work. At least half of those things, he doesn't get.

Jared sucks breath in through his teeth and holds Jen's hair. As he picks up Jen's rhythm, he goes with it, pressing his hips up and pushing down with his hands, just gently. But it's enough that Jared is fucking his mouth, and okay, he thinks, so the plan is backfiring a little bit, because by God and all the angels, that's hot enough to burn him.

And, like every other time in recorded history, Jared does not know how to close his mouth.

"God, Jensen. Fuck, fuck, that's... oh, yeah. Oh, do that again. Ahhh, fuck. Jen, God, you feel so good."

Jen does that as long as Jared can stand it. When the hands in his hair and the pour of filthy-innocent words out Jared's mouth tell him he can't keep on unless he wants Jared coming - which he does, but maybe not just yet - he raises his head and tightens his fingers firmly, just enough to help. He's not sure which way he wants to go. There are two possibilities.

First. He could let Jared fuck him. He's been trying not to think about it, but it's Jared's first time; it'd probably be the easiest thing for him. And Lord knows Jen has no problem taking that, no problem at all. But...

Second. He could fuck Jared. He really - really - wants to fuck Jared. He has been dying to fuck Jared for a very long time, to sink into that hot body and feel those impossibly long legs wrapped around his waist. To watch Jared's bedroom eyes close under the strain of so much pleasure, see what that expressive mouth looks like when Jen's buried deep in him.

Yeah. That would be good.

"What is it?" Jared's thumb brushes over his temple and he glances up, realizing he's paused too long. Jared's looking down at him, pink in his cheeks and need in his eyes, but concern, too.

"I was just... thinkin'." Jensen trips over it, not sure how to bring it up, but he's way behind the times.

"Thinkin' about how we're gonna do this, kind of thinkin'?" Jared grins, easy and relaxed like he does, no confrontation or uneasiness in his eyes. Jen just stares at him, maybe nods a little. "Well," Jared says, soft and a little shy, because he can't be that open about everything or it'd hardly be fair. "I kind of thought you'd be on top. If that's okay."

Jen about chokes. "You sure?"

"Yeah," Jared says, glancing up, a little smile. "I mean, I thought about it, and I want... I want it to be good."

Jen laughs a little. "Well, it'll be good no matter what," he says, pretending injured pride.

Jared laughs with him, swats him on the shoulder. "Shut up. I mean... you've done this before, right? You know what you're doing?"

"Yeah, I do." Jen leans down, lays a soft kiss on Jared's hip, and then again. Jared arcs up, his head falling back into the pillows, and Jen smiles. "We need something, though. Couple of 'em, actually..."

"In the drawer," Jared breathes, one arm falling to point at the bedside table.

Jen climbs up, shucking his ruined shirt on the way. He opens the drawer and finds a little bottle and a fresh box of twelve condoms, which he pulls out. Grinning, he holds the box between two fingers. "I'm good, but I'm not sure I'm this good..."

Jared rolls his eyes and reaches out, wrestles him down onto the bed and bites his shoulder and chest. Jen laughs too, pulls at Jared's hair and shoves at his shoulders, and they wind up curled together, panting. Jared's bangs fall in his eyes and his hand slides down Jen's chest, slow, with an edge of nails. "One of us has too many clothes on."

Jen lifts under his touch, eyes fixed on him as he slides fingers under Jen's jeans, works the buttons and pulls the fabric apart. As Jen lifts his hips, he watches Jared's eyes go from mischievous to lustful, determined, and maybe a little intimidated. "Starting to see the appeal," Jared whispers, eyes raking over Jen's body. "After this, I'm thinkin' we'll see about me being on top."

"Nervous?" Jen asks, stroking a thumb over Jared's arm, soothing.

"Naw," he replies, his hand settling on Jen's thigh and sliding up, up. "Just I kind of want to fuck you, now." He dips his head and kisses Jen's neck, bites softly just as his hand makes it to Jen's cock, palm skating gently over it before his hand closes.

"Aw, son of a bitch," Jen cries, and he can't stop himself from pushing up into Jared's fist as it makes loose strokes along his length. Jared's mouth is busy at his neck, on his ear, and Jen wraps an arm around his shoulder and knocks his hand away so he can roll them, put Jared on his back and kiss that wicked, clever mouth. He kneels up and straddles Jared's thigh, grabs the little bottle up from the bedspread and holds it between them. "Take your pick," he says, and it's a challenge, a decision.

Jared pushes it toward him. "Me first," he says, and spreads his legs apart.

"God damn," Jen whispers, awed. He reaches out a hand and just runs his palm over Jared's thighs, hips, belly. Jared closes his eyes and stretches his hands above his head, sighing, his mouth open just enough that Jen can see the white flash of his teeth, the tip of his tongue.

He slicks his fingers fast and falls down beside Jared, the warm gold light playing over their skin. He kisses that open mouth, hard and fast, trying to make it drugging and low. He slides his hand around Jared's cock and strokes, squeezing a little, and Jared gasps into his mouth. He sounds like he does on set when he gets hurt on something - just this little gasp of shock. His hands stay over his head, and when Jen raises his head and trails his fingers down and back, he can see they're gripping the headboard tight.

Jared meets his eyes, and his voice shivers, just a little. "Take it slow, okay?"

Jen nods, serious, and viciously stomps on his instinct to just fucking attack the guy. Gotta take it slow, he repeats to himself. Gotta slow down. "Ever done anything like this before?" he asks, as his fingers skim, then lightly circle the hot opening. "I mean, like... with a girl."

Jared shakes his head, breath wavering on the in and out. "Naw, not with a girl. But, like... when I was lookin', back in San Antonio... oh, man..."

He presses just the tip of his first finger inside, hot and slick. Jared groans high in his throat and shifts, so Jen kisses him, soft. "Yeah? In San Antonio...?"

Jared's breathing gets heavier, shallower, and Jen can feel him relax a little as he twists and pushes. "I whuh, I, in the shower... a couple times... and I tr, I tried... on my... self..."

The pictures fill Jen's head. Lean, hard body in the claw foot tub, leaning forward, braced on the wall. One hand twisted around to tease and try, slick with soap and water, the sparkling fall over his skin. Thinking of Jensen. Christ Almighty, he thinks, feeling a little light-headed. He's gonna kill me. I'm gonna die happy, but he's gonna kill me.

Jen kisses and strokes Jared through it, stretching him carefully. After a few minutes, Jen comes around and kneels between his legs, pressing fingers into him again to get a new angle, make sure he's as ready as he can be. He leans down and licks at the tip of Jared's cock, takes it into his mouth and suckles lightly as he works him open. The sounds that wring from Jared, the low, melting groans... God, they're amazing. They're pure sex.

They're driving Jensen completely insane.

His dick is throbbing hard, his whole body's on fire. All he can think is that he's gotta get inside, got to have more, now, immediately. He sucks harder as he rocks his fingers back and forth, forgetting that he's not really looking to get Jared off like this. The taste on his tongue, the sounds he's making, the incredible tightness and heat that grips his fingers, it's just too much, and he wants.

Dimly, he can hear Jared talking, saying something, and it takes Jared's hand in his hair, dragging him up before he can hear it, desperate and reedy and insistent. "Jensen, Jen, Jesus, will you fuck me already? Please, Jen, please, do it..."

He doesn't need to be asked twice.

He's pressing his hips up against Jared, one hand pulling his ankle up to get it around his waist, God, yeah, when something sharp presses into his chest and he sees Jared pushing the little foil packet and bottle at him. Oh. Right. He takes the necessary eight seconds, totally mindless, doing exactly whatever the hell Jared needs him to do if he can just do this. And then it's time.

He sets himself against Jared's body, pulls those legs around him and feels them settle on his hips, his back. Their eyes meet, and Jen feels almost a little shell-shocked. He leans down and kisses Jared, softly, carefully. "You ready?"

"Jensen, I swear, if you don't fuck me right now, I'm never talking to you again."

Jen laughs softly, leans his head against Jared's and presses his hips forward. Jared makes this long, low sound, breathless with sex and utterly fucking gorgeous, and when the tip of Jen's cock slips into place, they groan together. Jared tightens his legs, bringing Jen in further, and before either of them can breathe again, their hips are touching. It's too hot, and Jen can feel Jared's heart beating through his cock.

"More," Jared demands, his hands finally coming down to grip Jen's shoulders, scrape at his back. Jen obeys him totally, pulling back and pressing back in again, and again. Then Jared's voice swings up high and he clenches down tight, and Jen knows he's found a spot Jared couldn't on his own. There are bright spots of light behind his eyelids, and he realizes he must have closed them, but he can't bring himself to open them again. He just holds onto Jared as hard as he can, slamming his hips forward, feeling the bite of nails in his back and teeth in his shoulder. It's so good, and Jared's calling out his name, Jensen, Jen, oh, fuck, and then Jared lifts his hips into Jen's just once, and Jen almost goes over. He bites his lip hard, trying to hold back; he needs Jared to come before he does. It's important, makes this right.

So he slips one hand between them, shoving and pushing until he can curl his fingers around Jared's dick. It's slippery and hot with lube and sweat and precome, and Jen jacks him hard and fast as he can, twisting his wrist, desperate and flushed and feeling it coming on him fast. "Please, Jared," he whispers, his voice tortured and ragged between his gritted teeth. "Please..."

And then Jared cries out, wordless and drenched in ecstasy, and Jen can feel the hot spill over his fingers, the pulsing throb. His whole body is shaking under Jen's, and Jen feels the blinding pressure reach his dick, and then the whole fucking world explodes.


He pulls into a parking spot next to the bar. It's a good one. Beside him, Jared glances out the window, waiting for the car to stop so he can get out and they can go in and get hammered.

It's what they do. What they've always done.

It's fucking awkward, is what it is.

Jen cuts the engine and sits in the car while Jared shoulders open his door and climbs out. He sits there for a second; brooding, actually, over what the hell's gone wrong between them in the last week. It's not that things are bad, exactly. They talk, curse, fight, play, just like always. And of course the sex is fucking fantastic. Between shooting, there's only so much they can do, but still - Jesus. He might tease, but Jared for all his once-technical-virginity is having zero problems translating his skills from girl to guy. Jensen hasn't had many male lovers, but, man, the guy learns fast.

It's just little stuff. Like sometimes he's not sure how to act around Jared. He's only ever fucked friends or pretty boys who just so happened to be there. It's never been a thing, a big deal. It shouldn't be now - he and Jared are friends. Sex is just something they do because... because they're bored, because they each have to admit that the other one's stokin' hot. It -

"Hey, they still keep the beer inside the bar, right?" Jared's ducking his head in the window, wearing his sarcastically confused face.

"Shut up."

They head for the door, side by side, hands in pockets. They made a deal, right at the start - no groping in public. They're already two male leads on a show with no girls, they don't need any help with the rumors, thanks. There's a certain amount of professionalism that Jensen expects from himself, and as much as the publicists have outright told them that they don't have to get excited if rumors spring up (hell, it'd probably appeal to certain parts of their fan base) he doesn't think that actually nailing his co-star is part of the deal.

So no touching in public, and public definitely includes the set if any of the cast or crew happens to be around. In front of other eyes, they're just friends.

Of course he worries. Why wouldn't he worry? There's all kinds of things that could go wrong, and he's listing them in his head as he and Jared approach the door. Something in Jensen is on autopilot, apparently, because he reaches out and opens the door, and then just stands there holding it for Jared, lost in thought.

Jared stops and stands there. Waiting.

Jen holds it for about a full sixty seconds before it clicks that things are not progressing properly, when he lifts his head and realizes what he's doing.

He sighs and rolls his eyes, like Jared's the nitwit for making a big deal, and tries to go inside.

Jared's hand slips between his neck and the collar of his jacket and Jared literally hauls him backward. Jen stumbles back and Jared waits for him to get his balance, just shaking his head. When Jen can stand, he shoots Jared a look. "What the...?"

Jared shoves him. It's not a big thing, just a little that's right, what're you gonna do about it?

Jen just looks at him, like, man, what're you doin?

Again, he just gets that insulting little shove. Naturally, Jensen has only one response.

They crash together, trying for headlocks and wrestling each other around. They shove and drag each other to the side of the building, and passing groups of guys laugh as they fight. It's not a real fight, they don't punch or kick or gouge, no. It's Jared saying don't be a moron. It's Jen telling him about the tension, and Jared answering with his own. They wind up pushed against a wall in the alley, flushed and breathless, checking fast to make sure nobody can see before they're kissing. Jensen's fingers are in tousled brown hair and Jared's hands hard on Jen's waist, their hips sliding and bumping together.

When they break apart, they straighten their clothes. Out of the corner of his eye, Jen catches Jared smiling. "What?" he asks, the corners of his lips tugging up against his volition.

"You. You're an idiot, Jensen."

"Yeah, well. At least I'm not the only idiot in the alley."

Jared coughs, surprised and amused, which is familiar. "I'm not the one holding the door for my special lady friend, pal."

Jen can't help but laugh. He hesitates for just one square second before cracking the joke, then decides it'd be stupid not to. "Well, hey, mama always taught me all women are ladies. Don't matter how trampy they are."

Jared looks at him, taken a bit aback, and Jen worries in that split second that he's made the wrong call. Too much? Too far? But then Jared draws himself up, folds his arms over his chest and looks down his nose. "See what you get tonight, mister sleeping-on-the-couch," he says in a high falsetto, and he flounces into the bar like he was born to it.

Jen about falls down laughing as he follows.

The machismo flies hard and heavy that night as they match each other for shots, scream conflicting calls at the hockey game on TV and hit on as many women as they can find. It's one in the morning and Jensen's just finishing up washing his hands in the bathroom when Jared bursts through the door and locks it behind him. He drags Jen up against the wall and pushes him to his knees, and Jensen apologizes for calling him a woman in the best possible way as Jared growls promises, demands and curses, fisting his hands in Jen's hair.

As they fall into the cab later that night and Jen gives his address, Jared leans up into his side and presses his mouth to Jen's ear, soft and warm with the night's excess. "This weekend, man, it's my turn. I wanna see you open your mouth and call out for me, I wanna feel your fingers in my back when I fuck you. Soon, soon, soon..."

Jensen leans back against the creaky vinyl seat, grips Jared's jacket and tries to remember to breathe.