now the road is a minefield
I can’t follow the way he moves
I can’t see past the shadow
It was the worst birthday of Jensen’s recollection.
Turning thirty was a milestone, and Jared had wanted to make it memorable, so he had surprised him by flying Chris, Steve, and Jason, as well as Chad and even Mike up to spend the weekend with them in Vancouver. He’d organized it so Tom could join in on the festivities too, and he’d cleared his schedule and opened up his house to Jensen and the guys and it made Jensen feel special and appreciated and about ten feet tall, and so damn lucky to have a friend like Jared in his life. So, of course it couldn’t last, because just as the guys dropped by the set to say hello, a call from Sandy put an ugly look on Jared’s face and a damper on Jensen’s day.
Jensen left the guys to their own devices as soon as he saw Jared tuck his phone back inside his jacket, startled to see his hazel eyes glittering an angry, murky green, while his mouth was drawn into a thin line; his face looked like a thundercloud. “S’up, Jay?”
“Sandy,” Jared said through his clenched jaw. He took a deep breath before elaborating, “I told her I was busy this weekend. I told her how important it was for me to be here on your birthday but no, she still wants me in LA for some wedding show that I don’t give a fuck about!”
“I fucking told her, Jensen!”
“Relax, man.” Jensen put a steadying hand on Jared’s chest; his No Touching Jared policy had lasted a measly fifteen minutes after filming had resumed and he just didn’t even bother anymore. “Breathe.”
Jared snorted derisively. “She’s driving me crazy with this shit.”
“That’s her job, dude,” Jensen chuckled, silently thankful that his acting skills had returned to him. “I remember when Josh and Allie were getting married… Allie was this sweet little thing and then, boom! Bridezilla. It happens. Just ride it out, she’ll go back to being the awesome woman you love later, you know?” Jared just stared at him and Jensen tried not to squirm.
“This weekend was for you.”
“You think I give a rat’s ass about the date on the calendar? Come on, Jay, you know me better than that. We can hang when you get back. Go make your girl happy.”
“I don’t want to give in to her just like that,” Jared grumbled, pouting and looking a little like a petulant kid. “Can’t keep letting her get her own way all the time, like she’s dictating my every move.”
“Dude,” Jensen scoffed, “have you learnt nothing from watching your momma and daddy for the past twenty-something years of your life? That’s marriage in a nutshell.” Jared’s jaw ticked in irritation and he frowned, so Jensen patted his chest and plowed on. “Go, man. I promise to save some booze and cake for you. And I promise not to have too much fun until you get back. Just understand that I’m getting a big steak dinner and an even bigger birthday present outta this.”
Jared chuckled despite his dark mood. “Done and done. You really promise?”
“You were never a scout.”
“I have the pictures to prove it.”
“That was a photoshoot, asshole.” Jared chuckled, the tension seeping out of his body as he dropped his forehead onto Jensen’s shoulder and kept it there. “I really wanted your birthday to be special…”
“Mission accomplished, Jay. I can’t believe you did all this for me,” Jensen said, trying his level best to ignore the way the breeze whipped Jared’s hair across Jensen’s jaw. “I mean, I wish you hadn’t done some of it…”
“Like the pink balloons in your trailer, princess?”
“Like the pink balloons in my trailer. Like the pink tiara you made me wear all day. The one I’m still wearing, by the way,” Jensen grumbled good-naturedly, a smile tugging at his mouth as Jared’s body shook with laughter and he looped his arms around Jensen’s body – and why, God, why’d he have to keep doing stuff like that?
“You liked the pink velvet cupcake cake though, right?”
“Dude, I loved the pink velvet cupcake cake.”
“So I should go to LA?”
“You should go to LA.”
“I’m not having any fun while I’m there, though.”
“Hey, don’t do that to Sandy, man. You go. Leave the big, black cloud hanging over your head here where it belongs in stupid, rainy Vancouver.”
How he’d become a champion for Sandy, Jensen wasn’t quite sure, but he couldn’t seem to not do the right thing where Jared was concerned. It was weird, this compulsion to always do what was in Jared’s best interest, to always put Jared first. He’d never really done it for another person before, not outside of his family, but now it was second nature to him when it concerned Jared; he didn’t even need to think about it.
And maybe there was a bright side to all this, because as invisible hellhounds nipped at Dean’s heels, it didn’t take all that much acting on his part for people to buy that Dean would die for his brother in a heartbeat.
you make the darkness disappear
I feel found when you stay near
I know where I am when you are here
my way becomes so clear
It was a chore keeping a smile on his face all weekend long, at least when he was sober, but the steady flow of drink had helped with that. He figured he was coasting a nice beer buzz until Chad cornered him in the kitchen while the other guys were watching the game in the living room.
“Funny thing,” the squinty-eyed moron started, “Jared swore up and down that come hell or high water, he was going to be here for your birthday.”
“I told him to go,” Jensen said, his tone clipped. “You should’ve gone back with him.”
“You wound me, dude,” Chad deadpanned. “It’s not all about the Jayman. We’re friends too.”
His snide, sarcastic side came out to play. “We are?”
“You pass out drunk and drool on me – fucking twice – and you think that doesn’t make us friends?”
“Your definition of friendship is fucked up.”
“You’re fucked up.”
“Maybe. But I was right, wasn’t I?”
“I stand by what I said before.”
“Uh huh. Have you seen that big, shiny rock on Sandy’s finger?”
“Engaged doesn’t mean married.”
“Next you’ll be telling me marriage isn’t permanent.”
“Well,” Chad shrugged, “it isn’t.”
“It is to me.”
“Then don’t let it get that far!” Chad huffed, careful to keep his voice down, and Jensen was grateful that he had that much sense. “Are you just gonna sit back and do nothing? Fight for what you want, man!”
“Do you ever listen to the shit that comes outta your mouth?” Jensen demanded, his voice a harsh whisper. “I should’ve never listened to you in the first place and got my stupid hopes up! He’s not into me, Chad. He loves Sandy. Who is a girl. Which is the gender he likes, unlike my fucked up self as you so rightly pointed out.”
“She’s not the one for him…”
“Her odds are still way better than mine,” Jensen sneered, “’cause she has a pussy and I don’t.”
“Nah, I’m pretty sure you have one too,” Chad spat, just as caustically, and Jensen eyed him with disdain.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t punch your stupid face right now.”
“Because I’m the only one you can talk to about this,” Chad snarled, “and despite the fact that you’re a giant douche, you make Jared happy, and that makes me happy.”
That shut Jensen up for a second. “I don’t know what you want me to do.”
“Fight for him. Jesus Christ,” Chad swore in vain, frustration evident in his tone, “do something. Anything. Don’t just take it! Don’t give up. Dude, I’ve never seen him look at anybody the way he looks at you. Sometimes it seems like when you’re around, you’re all he sees and when you’re not around, you’re all he thinks about.”
“That makes two of us then.”
“That’s exactly why I got those pictures of you two together in the first place!” Chad dragged his hands through his hair, as if he was trying not to tug it out at the roots. “You think I want to go around playing matchmaker to you two assholes? I’m talking about my best friend going gay here, man! I should not be so fucking Zen about this shit and yet – look at me!”
“Say whatever you want, Murray, I’m not breaking them up.” The thought of it alone was ludicrous. “As if I could in the first place. Because: newsflash, asshole,” Jensen lowered his voice to an almost indecipherable whisper, “he’s not gay!”
“Fine, be a chickenshit. Just don’t come running to me when you realize how wrong you are.”
Anything Jensen might’ve said in response was cut off by the ringing of his phone, Jared calling him to wish him a happy birthday. Again. Chad tipped his beer bottle in his direction, a smug smile on his face as he returned to the living room and Jensen stepped out onto the back deck.
“Happy Birthday, Jensen,” Jared said softly in his ear.
“What number is this?” Jensen asked, as if he didn’t already know.
“Hey!” Jensen huffed. “You trying to con me outta a wish, Padalecki?”
“Knew you were keeping track…”
“I just want what’s rightfully mine…”
“Happy Birthday, Jensen.” Jared chuckled. “There. That’s fifteen.”
“Still got a few hours left.”
“This is the dumbest idea you’ve ever had,” Jensen lied, “don’t blame me when you get your phone bill.”
“In case you missed it, Ackles, I am a successful TV star and I can afford to splurge on my Pisces woman. And the fuck are you saying? This is my best idea ever.”
“Dick. You miss me?”
“Nah. Haven’t thought about you once.”
“Liar. Please try not to have too much fun without me,” Jared said, and then sighed. “No. No. It’s your birthday. Have an amazing day, man.”
“I’m trying, Jay,” Jensen laughed, and it sounded forced even to his own ears, “but you keep interrupting me.”
“Shut up. Wait. Really?”
“No, not really, idiot.”
“You like your present?”
“Didn’t open it yet.”
“The hell not?” Jared paused, then chuckled, deep and throaty in Jensen’s ear. “You’re such a girl, Jenny.”
“Take that back!”
“Fine, fine. You can open it when I get home,” Jared teased and Jensen could almost see the wide smile that was doubtless gracing his face. “Hey, Jensen?”
“Happy Birthday, sweet sixteen. I’ll call you later, okay?”
“I’ll be here, Jay.”
will I lose control?
you’re the only road I know
you show me where to go
who will drive my soul?
Despite Chad’s ominous words, Jensen felt good about his decision to just stand there and let life give him the ol’ one-two punch in the face; he didn’t think he could live with himself if he did anything to jeopardize Jared’s relationship with Sandy, and he wasn’t a brave enough man to tell Jared how he felt.
When Jared returned from LA, he brought Sandy with him, and Jensen was forced into spending a night out with them sitting across the table. It hurt so much that it left him numb, and it was an effort not to stab himself in both eyes with the pointy tines of his fork just to feel something.
He watched in silence as Sandy became increasingly present in their lives, always on set, always there between them, her hand in Jared’s, her arm linked through his, her breasts pushed up against his chest as she leaned up and pressed her mouth to his, staking her claim for everyone to see, as if that ring on her finger wasn’t enough.
He listened when they laughed and talked about the future and their plans for it. He made sure to nod and smile and say all the right things, because sometimes it seemed that Jared needed to hear them, and he ignored the way Sandy seemed to be inching, pushing and then shoving him out of Jared’s life.
He didn’t need anyone telling him that his own life was fast becoming an unmitigated disaster; he could see it in everything he did, but it didn’t stop him from taking every emotion he was feeling and burying it, salted and burned, into the darkest recesses of his mind, where they hopefully wouldn’t haunt him again, as he went back to being the way he was before. Professional Actor. Occasional Musician. Impersonal Pal. Great Brother. Good Son. Only one facet of himself stayed the same: Jared’s Best Friend.
With the CW’s early announcement that their fourth season was a go, he was both relieved and worried, but at least the axe of unemployment was no longer hanging over their heads. He would work on repressing the rest. But as the weeks dragged on and they wrapped up filming on the shortened season, Jensen couldn’t wait to get away from everything that reminded him of what he could never have, and he left for Pittsburgh and the set of My Bloody Valentine happy to be involved in a project where he didn’t really know anyone in the cast and crew all that well. The plan was to use the experience to ease back into that aloof, professional persona he’d worked so hard to cultivate before Supernatural. Before Jared. That way, at the end of their hiatus, when he returned to Vancouver to resume filming, he could maybe, possibly, hopefully hold himself together as Jared married the woman he loved.
I can't expect the hard curves
there’s no borders
there are no lines
how can I know where to turn?
What was that people kept saying about the best laid plans?
Oh yeah. They tended to go awry. Amok. Berserk. Batshit crazy. Because one day, out of the goddamn blue, just like that, everything went haywire, and Jensen (and Jared) reeled from the shock of it.
He got the call one night in Pittsburgh. It had been a long, arduous day on location, and every muscle in his body ached. He was tense and jonesing for a cigarette or two or ten, but thankfully, he was too exhausted to do anything more than think about it and yearn.
When his phone rang just then, Jared’s name flashing up at him, he heaved a sigh of relief, settled more comfortably into the small mound of soft, plush pillows at his back and smiled, wasting no time in picking it up.
“Jared,” he said, certain his smile was evident in his voice, despite the exhaustion he felt clean through to his bones, “man, you’d be so proud of me. I almost fell off the nicotine wagon. I was strong, though. A promise is a promise.” Jensen waited for the inevitable lecture. And waited, and waited. “Jay?” A long, stuttering exhale was all he got in response, and just like that, all the tension that had ebbed away with the ringing of his phone returned ten-fold; more, even. “Jared? What’s wrong?”
“Jensen…” One word, whispered and utterly wrecked. Then a long, drawn-in breath as Jensen forced himself to exercise patience, followed by Jared’s voice again, raw and raspy, like he’d been crying. “Sandy and I broke up.”
Jensen froze. Like every single part of his body just stopped moving, including his lungs. It took Jared calling his name a couple of times before Jensen could recover from the shock of it all. And even though his first instinct was to say What?, to make sure he’d heard right, the pain he’d heard in Jared’s voice held him back; no way was he making the man say the words a second time. His very next instinct was to ask if Jared was okay, but how stupid would that have been? Of course he wasn’t okay; he was probably as far from okay as a person could get.
Not knowing what else to do, Jensen went with his gut.
“I don’t care what you do,” he said, his voice just as gruff as Jared’s, “tell me everything or don’t tell me anything, but you’re staying on the line with me. And if the battery on either one of our phones dies, call my hotel from a landline. I don’t care if you want to cry or scream or if all you’re doing on the other end is breathing, Jay, I wanna hear it. You got me?” The was an intermittent sound of Jared doing just that, breathing, harsh and sporadic, before he got himself together and spoke again.
“I need you here…”
“You know I’d do anything,” Jensen gritted out, damning this movie and his contract and every state that stood between Pennsylvania and Texas right then. “I would do anything to be there right now.” Another long, shuddering breath was followed by a sniffle, loud and messy. “Jared. Grab a tissue and blow your nose,” Jensen ordered, “and go wash your face and come right back. Go.”
“’Kay,” Jared sniffed again, “wait for me.”
As if Jensen was going anywhere.
Then he let Jared talk; about how working on Friday the 13th was going, about how he was going to break the news to his family, about what he would say to the fans at the Dallas convention in a few weeks, because he didn’t want them to ask first, and be stuck on stage looking like a schmuck, and because he didn’t want to lie and he didn’t want to hide it.
Jensen quietly ached to see his friend, just so that he could put an arm around him, anchor Jared to his side, keep him grounded and supported and sane, because this was nothing like what he and Danneel had gone through: Jared and Sandy had history. They had been in love. That lasting kind, the forever kind, and as much as Jensen resented her for having Jared’s heart in her hands, he could never deny that; so what the fuck had gone wrong?
Unwilling to come right out and ask, Jensen kept listening until they were both too sleepy to talk, and in the morning, first thing, even before his coffee, he called Jared just to say hello. They had been talking to each other on a daily basis anyway, but now, they were talking, talking. About life. About serious stuff.
About everything except what had really happened between Jared and Sandy.
When Jensen called him a week later, Jared sounded a little more miserable than before.
“Momma hates me.”
“She does not.”
“She does, Jen,” Jared lamented, “she loved Sandy, and now she has no wedding to plan, no new daughter to dote over, and no grandbabies in her future.”
“Jared,” Jensen soothed, “she loves you and she’ll understand. She will.”
“I’m a failure as a son.”
“Jay, don’t make me fly out there just to hit you.”
“As if you’d ever hurt me.”
Two weeks later, Jared called him, so livid that Jensen could feel his rage over the cell signal.
“She thought I was cheating on her.”
“What?” Jensen was shocked. Jared would never…
“I know, right?” Jared snapped indignantly. “As if I would ever! How did she not know that about me?” He huffed angrily. “With Danielle Panabaker, man!”
Jensen had heard that name before but it took him a few seconds to recall as Jared ranted. “Your co-star?”
“Yeah!” He sounded incensed, which was way better than broken, so Jensen took it. “I mean, I hardly know her! I’m nice to everyone, doesn’t mean I’m fucking them, right?”
“Right,” Jensen agreed. He could personally vouch for that.
“I hate this.”
“I know, Jay. I’m sorry, man.” Jensen stopped, not sure how to continue, or even if he should in the first place. But this was Jared and he owed it to his friend to do the right thing. “Jared?”
“Is there any way…?”
“No.” Jensen could picture the tightening of Jared’s jaw and the resolute look on his face. “It’s over, Jen. It’s…over.”
“Okay,” Jensen breathed, not feeling much of anything except for empathy. “Okay.”
“I don’t know how I’m gonna make it through this con in Dallas without you, Jensen. There’s really no way you can come?”
Jensen heaved a frustrated sigh. “I’m still doing the fucking dubbing for this movie, or I’d be there in a heartbeat. But don’t worry, Jared, I’ve got your back,” Jensen promised. “I’ve got you.”
The last evening of the con, Jared called him just as room service came by with his dinner.
“You sent your family to me.”
Jensen took a big gulp of iced water before he spoke. “It’s the best I could do,” he explained, flushing hotly, grateful that Jared couldn’t actually see him right now, “they’re the only part of me I could send you right now…”
“I don’t know what I did to deserve you, Jensen.”
“Shut up, moron. You’re my best friend.”
“I love you, Jen,” Jared choked out, “I… You… You don’t even know…”
If only, Jensen thought with a pang of something sharp and hot in his chest. “I know.”
“Alona got me candy and Jim kissed me.” Jensen chuckled; he’d already heard the accounts first-hand from their cast-mates. “I know you put them up to it.”
“You’re imagining things.”
“How come Al knew exactly what kind of candy to get me, then?”
“She’s a bright girl. Observant, too.”
“And the most ornery guy in the world is suddenly a big huggy bear?”
“Must be the moon in Cancer or some shit like that. You’d know better.”
Jared sighed, his tone sliding from playful to serious in the space of a heartbeat. “Thank you, Jensen.”
“Quit that. I ain’t doin’ shit.”
“You’re doing everything and you aren’t even here.” He paused for what seemed like an eternity but it was probably just a second or two. “God, I wish you were here.”
A few weeks after that, when the filming and dubbing and every other goddamn thing they’d wanted him to do for the movie that was fast-becoming the bane of his existence was done, Jensen returned to Vancouver.
It should have been a relief; this was to be the year of no more hotel suites for him, but then, of fucking course, his friend Todd had instead decided to sell the apartment he’d offered to Jensen at the end of last season. Todd was now moving to LA and Jensen was looking at another year of take-out and turn down service in a place that would never feel like home.
It made him want to take a page out of Jared’s book and get his own place, but he hadn’t been able to do that from Pittsburgh or LA, so he was currently homeless, with all his stuff stored temporarily in Jared’s basement, and the last thing he wanted to do when Jared was his top priority was to go apartment hunting.
He briefly considered going Hollywood and hiring a personal assistant to do it for him, but dismissed the idea before it could even fully form; there was no way he was trusting a stranger to find him a new home. Instead, he instructed the cab driver to take him to Jared’s, regardless of the lateness of the hour.
When Jared opened the door, out of breath and panting, it was eerily like their reunion after the writer’s strike, déjà vu except for the fact that there were shadows under his eyes, an ashen shade to his skin that had never been there before, and a hollow look in his eyes that belied his chirpy tone on the phone; Jensen was shocked.
He was even more shaken when he walked into the house to see the furniture – everything that Sandy had picked out – gone, the patio furniture that he and Jared had bought at a local department store in the middle of the living room instead, in front of a big ass flat-screen that most certainly hadn’t been there before.
With one look at Jared’s belligerent face, Jensen wisely refrained from comment; he couldn’t help but think that he was way out of his depth here. For wont of something to say, he petted the dogs and thought fast.
“I need a place to stay,” he said, marveling at that little stroke of genius. “Todd sold his apartment and moved back to LA.”
Jared huffed out a breath and Jensen wondered if it was just his imagination that it sounded so relieved. “Stay with me.”
“Thanks,” Jensen answered quickly, a little afraid Jared might change his mind and not want him around. “Just until I find a place. Couple of weeks, max.”
“Long as you need, Jen.”
“Cool.” They stared at each other for a minute, the silence between them cloying and uncomfortable for the first time since they’d met. “I’m beat.”
“You look it,” Jared said, straight-forward, not a hint of smile, and that right there was completely creeping Jensen out. “You eat? I got leftover pizza in the fridge.”
Jared nodded, and still they stood, like a stand-off surrounded by patio furniture. “I’m going to bed. Umm, I bought a couple of air mattresses. I have one, and the other’s in the spare room on this floor. You can have that room, if you like, it’s bigger than any of the rooms upstairs, and it’s got an ensuite.”
“I’ll get you the pump, it’s in the garage.”
“All right.” Jensen studied the two mutts in front of him after Jared was out of earshot, and they stared back, looking just as flummoxed as he felt. “Yeah. We’re screwed.”
As Jared disappeared upstairs, Jensen figured he had only one option left.
He called Chad.
I feel bright when you stand near
I know what I am when you are here
my place becomes so clear
Chad’s strategy for bringing Jared back (to normal, to sanity, to the here and now, to Jensen) involved booze, boobs, and buying furniture.
Jensen tagged along for the furniture shopping but he let Chad take Jared to the bars and strip joints.
Jared seemed lighter in Chad’s presence somehow, and yet more substantial. Not the hollow entity he was when Jensen had showed up on his doorstep, not the pod person he had become in the days between Jensen’s return and Chad’s arrival.
Certainly celebrating Jared’s birthday was a lot better with Chad around and Tom and Mike in tow, courtesy of some planning on Jensen’s part. The night left a smile on Jared’s face that looked almost the same as those old ones Jensen had fallen in love with.
Otherwise, it was upsetting, and it took Jared passing out one night without even letting the dogs out one last time for Jensen to really step in and take over. When the next morning came around and the kids came to him to be let out and fed, he was even more concerned. Clearly out of his comfort zone, he was heartened to see Chad affect a change in his best friend, even if Jensen thought the light in Jared's eyes was more manic than meaningful.
It came to a head when Chad and Jared returned from a bar the night after, Chad completely hammered and Jared not far behind; Jensen had to leave them passed out on the new couch in the living room as he scrubbed a hand over his face and let them sleep it off. The dogs already seen to, he returned to his room, collapsing on the queen bed Jared and Chad had bought him (Batman sheet set and all, the sons of bitches) and staring at his phone as he wondered who to turn to for advice, vaguely wondering if calling Jeff would somehow end up with Sherri showing up on Jared’s doorstep unannounced, ready to mother-hen Jared to death.
He wasn’t quite sure their friendship would survive something like that.
He must have been more exhausted than he’d realized because he fell asleep with his thumb hovering over Danni’s contact details, and when he jerked awake a few hours later, he was thankful he hadn’t gone ahead and dialed her number only to fall asleep on her. A sound at his door alerted him to Jared’s presence, and oh, that must be why he’d woken.
“I can’t sleep.”
Jensen didn’t think; he just flipped the covers and patted the empty space next to him. “Get in here.”
Jared moved on leaden feet, not quite looking at Jensen in the dark, so Jensen turned away; it wasn’t difficult, he always slept on his right side. The mattress dipped a little with Jared’s additional weight, and in seconds, the heat of his body had radiated out towards Jensen, his proximity giving Jensen goose bumps even as the smell of beer and bar teasing his nose made him a little nauseous, but he was asleep just a few minutes later, and in the cold light of day, trivial little things like that weren’t worth remembering.
When Chad left for LA, he’d been just as worried as Jensen, and Jared was still walking around like a zombie, just, you know, minus the brain-eating. Unless you counted Jensen’s.
They went through the motions, fulfilling all their obligations. They showed up at Comic Con, smiled and laughed for the cameras, chatted with the fans and tried to be themselves. Then Jared went to his room and crawled back into his shell and Jensen moped.
Talking to Danneel hadn’t yielded any insights, so when they returned to Vancouver, Jensen just settled into living in Jared’s space, carving out a new niche for himself, one where he didn’t feel as comfortable as he’d done in the past when he’d slotted and fit right in like he and Jared were two pieces of the same puzzle.
It was Jensen who now took the dogs for their morning walk (Jared let him), it was Jensen who did the chores around the house (while Jared mostly stayed horizontal), it was Jensen who arranged all the furniture they’d bought (while Jared watched, and sometimes helped, especially when heavy lifting was involved).
He didn’t mind doing it all, not after Sadie had come snuffling into his room one morning, tugging at his tee, barking to get him upstairs. He’d stumbled up the steps, still half-asleep, only to find Jared crying into Harley’s fur, beside himself, upsetting his mutts and scaring the living daylights out of Jensen while he’d done it. The four of them had fallen asleep in a tangled, exhausted pile atop Jared’s new bed, and when he woke the morning after that, he’d run out of ideas.
The first day back on set didn’t make it any better, and Jensen was thankful that the Dean-centric scenes were being filmed first, leaving Jared with an additional week off.
Fitful sleep, tension, and anxiety had left them both looking like death warmed over, but at least Dean had a legit excuse to work with; Jensen wasn’t sure what Sam’s excuse would be, apart from having to live without Dean, and okay, yeah...their reel lives were just as fucked up as their real lives right now. Talk about method acting.
He returned that first night, late and about ready to collapse from fatigue, still reeling from the phantom fear of being buried alive. He was unsurprised to find Jared laid out on the gigantic chocolate brown, L-shaped suede couch he’d bought, staring unseeingly at the TV.
Jensen steeled himself before speaking. “Hey.”
“I’ll get something,” Jensen said anyway. Of all the things he’d had to deal with over the past couple of weeks, a Jared who wasn’t perpetually stuffing his face with food and candy was the most alarming. “What do you feel like?”
“Get whatever you want,” Jared said, his voice muffled by the cushioned seat as he turned onto his stomach, effectively bringing an end to the conversation. Jensen stared at the long, lean line of his muscled back under Jared’s thin tee – because one thing Jared couldn’t seem to stop doing was working out – before high-tailing it to his room.
He’d showered before leaving the set, so he just changed into a pair of shorts and an old t-shirt before going to the kitchen. He’d gone grocery shopping a couple of days ago just so Jared would have something to eat when he wasn’t home, so he knew where everything was, and it didn’t take him long to get a potful of spaghetti on the boil. He knew his way around a kitchen enough to defrost some frozen meatballs in the microwave and get them browning nicely in a pan before upending the entire contents of a jar of pasta sauce over them. He was adding a few chili flakes to the bubbling sauce when Jared walked into the kitchen, rubbing sleepily at his eyes.
“You’re cooking?” he asked, eyes widening comically.
“It’s been known to happen,” Jensen replied, a smirk tugging at his mouth.
Jared shuffled close and sniffed the air around the stove appreciatively. “Smells good.”
“Set the table then,” Jensen directed, stifling the giddy spike of hope he felt; for the first time since his return, it was like Jared was talking to him instead of talking at him.
Jared did his bidding and obediently sat at the table, eagerly eying Jensen as he divvied up the entire lot of the meal into the deep pasta plates that Jared had laid out. The meal was simple, but delicious, with just the right amount of spice, and after a stressful day of filming and a harrowing time spent worrying about Jared, the food settled in his stomach, warm, comforting and filling.
“Thanks, Jen,” Jared said, taking their practically licked-clean plates to the sink to give them a quick rinse before popping them in the dishwasher. He leaned against the sink and stared out at the backyard through the window. “For...taking care of me. For everything.”
“Don’t do that, Jay,” Jensen said softly, his hand coming to rest between Jared’s shoulder blades, “you don’t need to thank me. Just be okay. That’s all I want.”
Jared laughed bitterly. “Might take a while.”
“I’ve got time, and nowhere else to be right now.” There was no response to that, unless you counted the ticking in Jared’s tightly clenched jaw.
The old Jared he knew and loved so well would have turned around and hugged him hard. The new one just nodded and walked away.
Later that night, though, this Jared who was almost a stranger to him came into his room again, his mere presence waking Jensen when ordinarily a herd of stampeding elephants wouldn’t have roused him after a day like the one he’d had.
It was different tonight, possibly because this time they were both sober, but Jensen couldn’t slip back into sleep so easily, and neither did Jared. He listened instead to the sounds of their mingled breathing, all at once in synchrony and discordant in the quiet of the night as they lay there, their backs to each other.
“I…I was going to give her everything, Jen.” Jared’s husky voice cut through the quiet, startling Jensen. “And then suddenly, it wasn’t enough,” he confessed, finally – oh God, finally – getting it out in the open and off his chest. “Suddenly, I wanted more. Wanted what she couldn’t give me…” He paused, taking a deep, steadying breath. “I can’t help but think how selfish that was of me. It was cold, and I’m never cold. She was everything I wanted for five years, Jensen, and then suddenly she wasn’t what I needed.” The bedding rustled as Jared shifted onto his back. “Everything that I loved about her started to get to me, you know? I used to love her leaning on me, depending on me, and then suddenly I felt boxed in, like she was too clingy. Before, when she saw me with other girls, she’d get pouty and jealous and it was cute, and then suddenly it was grating and annoying as hell.” Jared huffed loudly. “And the thing is, I don’t think she was acting any different. It was me. I’m the one who’s different. I’m the one who changed and she and I suddenly didn’t match anymore.”
Jensen turned to face his friend. “It happens, Jay,” he said, gripping the sheets in between their bodies so he wouldn’t give in to the urge to reach out and push Jared’s hair off his forehead. “You two were practically kids when you got together. Now that you’re older, you want different things – that’s not a crime. It’s part of growing up, and yeah, it sucks, and yeah, people you love get hurt and some of them get left behind as you move forward, but it’s not your fault,” Jensen insisted. “You have nothing to feel guilty about. Seriously.”
“Easier said than done,” Jared told the ceiling, and they were both quiet for a long while.
“Have you spoken to Sandy since?”
Jared snorted. “Yeah, right.”
“Hey, now,” Jensen admonished, “don’t be that way. Not about Sandy. I think you need to talk to her…”
“I think that’s the last thing she and I want…”
“It doesn’t have to be right away, Jared. You’ll know when the time’s right.” Jensen’s fingers carefully caressed the soft sheets. “But I think you need to talk to each other to be all the way okay.”
In the dim moonlight filtering into the room through the open curtains, Jared’s face looked a little haunted. “They’re saying I left her because I’m ambitious.”
“The internet.” He laughed derisively, and it was an ugly sound coming from him. “They say I want to be a big movie star and I felt like she was holding me back.”
“Is it true?” Jensen asked baldly, and that made Jared look at him, distressed and hurt.
“Then why do you give a fuck about what ‘they’ say?” Jensen asked. “They don’t know you. Not like we do. They don’t know that you’d give everything you have for someone you love. They don’t know anything about you being the generous person you are. They don’t know a thing about the real you. So don’t listen to them. Your family, your friends – Sandy – we all know you better than that, man.”
Jared lay still for a long minute before nodding and, turning his head away from Jensen again, he sighed.
So Jensen turned away from him too, and faced the wall instead, his eyes boring holes right through into the masonry. He knew neither of them were going to get any sleep anytime soon, and groaned when he saw the time on his alarm clock; getting up for work in a few hours was going to be a bitch.
He hadn’t meant to speak, not really. His offers of comfort, both silent and spoken, since his return to Vancouver had all been very politely spurned so far, but Jensen kept trying, because…well, because it was Jared. His words came from a place within him that even he hadn’t known existed, heartfelt and fierce.
“You know I’m no good at talking about feelings and stuff, right? That’s your strong suit,” he said, swallowing a little to talk past his suddenly dry mouth. “And I sure as hell don’t know anything about love, but I do know about loss. About losing someone you love.” Jensen paused to breathe, and remind himself that this wasn’t about him. “I just wanna say that no matter how bad it feels right now – and I know anyone can say what they want but it’s Sandy and you loved her and losing her hurts like hell and you feel like shit… But no matter how…hollow you feel inside, Jay – no matter how much you miss her...it’ll get better.” Jensen forced himself to keep still when he heard Jared sniffling. “It will, because you’re strong and you’ll move on. I promise you that. It may take days or weeks or months…” or years or forever, he thought, and then sighed in resignation, “but it will get better and one day you’re gonna wake up and all those empty spaces in your life that she left behind will be filled with other people, other memories, someone else who’s just as special. That’s life, man.”
Jensen felt a bit like a hypocrite saying the words, because a part of him would never believe them to be true, because with everything he knew of himself, he realized that he would never get over Jared, but he had to have faith, he had to force that belief that everything, given time, would get better, both for himself and more importantly right now, for Jared.
It was that belief that allowed him to sleep that night.
Things got a little easier after that; closer to normal.
They still weren’t them yet, and Jensen wasn’t the only one to notice. No one said anything, though; even Sam and Dean were better this way, with this wall between them.
As the weeks dragged on, bit by bit, Jared returned to himself. Not all the way back, not by a long shot, but at least he was joining Jensen on those walks with the dogs. When Jensen whipped up a meal at the end of a long day, it was almost always with Jared at his side, the kids lounging nearby.
They still slept in the same bed, turned away from each other.
A few days into that unspoken arrangement, they’d made another and somehow migrated upstairs, where Jensen knew Jared felt more comfortable, able to stretch his mile-long legs out along the huge, Japanese-style bed Jared had bought himself. Jensen loved that bed. It was low to the ground, so every morning when he inevitably fell out of it whilst struggling to get up and shake the sleep from his head, he hurt himself less. It was the little things, he thought, and he could cling to them for security in this fucked up farce his life had become.
He viciously held himself back from thinking about himself, and his feelings through all of this…whatever this was. It was strangely surreal to sleep in the same bed with the man he was in love with, and not do anything, not make a move, and just be there, but the current disconnect between him and Jared made that a little easier to bear, and since Jensen didn’t (couldn’t, wouldn’t) think about Jared in that way just yet, with his dick on board for the ride, he was good.
And Jared? Jared was getting better, and the gulf between them that had stretched out into a yawning abyss was narrowing, metaphorically by miles but inches in reality, as Jared slid into his space again, closing the distance between them as they stood, as they sat, as they slept.
Then one day – a Sunday, a day off, a day to sleep in, rest up, reboot, especially when the Saturday before it had been spent filming – Jensen blinked groggily awake to find the heavy weight of his bulky co-star sprawled across his side, Jared looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and a lot more familiar than he had done in weeks.
“What?” Jensen croaked, never one for polite conversation in the mornings.
The look in Jared’s eyes gentled. “I’m going for a run,” he said, resting his chin on Jensen’s bicep, just watching him. Jensen huffed.
“Gimme a sec…”
“Naw, you stay in bed,” Jared told him, holding him down with his big body when Jensen tried to move, “I’m good by myself.”
Jensen blinked up at him, still a little befuddled by sleep. “Why?”
“You had a rough day yesterday,” Jared said quietly, dragging his fingers through Jensen’s hair, his touch soothing and scratching, and with just the right amount of pressure to make Jensen purr in pleasure. “Can’t have been easy…”
It hadn’t been easy; it had been torture.
They’d filmed that little bit of Heaven and Hell the day before, with Dean and Sam lounging against the side of the Impala, beer bottles in hand, Jensen crying himself raw as Dean recounted his time in Hell. Never mind that it had been the first time, ironically enough, that Jensen had allowed himself to feel the loss of his own impossible situation, even as Dean wished he wouldn’t feel anything; between Dean’s torment in Hell and Jensen’s anguish right here on Earth, it had made for a seriously draining day.
One little scene had shot all the hard work and hijinks he’d gone through trying to bring some fun back to the set during the filming of Yellow Fever straight to hell.
Then again, it had been nothing compared to the filming of their ninth episode. The one where Jensen had attempted to hide himself in his trailer while elsewhere on set, Jared went to town in his sex scene with the show’s new incarnation of Ruby, the demon that Sam was now banging, fuck you very much, Eric Kripke.
The new actress, Genevieve Cortese, was just Jared’s type, too, a Sandy-clone in looks if not personality, and it took a conscious effort on Jensen’s part not to hate her on sight. Even now, knowing how embarrassed filming intimate scenes made Jared, Jensen had to fight to suppress the wave of jealousy he felt.
The feel of soft lips lightly brushing the bare skin on his arm, just where the sleeve of his tee ended, jolted him to back the present and went a long way towards making him feel better; he really wasn’t inclined to share Jared right now. “I don’t mind,” he said.
“It’s okay,” Jared replied, heaving his bed-warm body up a little higher, until his face hovered over Jensen’s, forcing him back into the pillows as Jared leaned closer and pressed a kiss against his temple. “I’ll bring breakfast, all right? Don’t make anything. Bagels good?”
“With strawberry cream cheese,” Jared finished, grinning, “I know, princess.”
Jensen blinked at him again, a little dazzled by that smile. He reached up and gently poked a dimple with his finger. “Missed these.”
Jared stilled, his gaze on Jensen as that dimple deepened beneath his finger. He said nothing with words, but suddenly his hands were burrowing under Jensen’s body, scooping him up with the sheets as he hugged him hard enough to chase the air from his lungs, his head nestled in the curve of Jensen’s neck and shoulder, snug and safe and sound as they both learned to be and breathe in synchrony again.
And just like that, it no longer felt like they were two mismatched pieces of the same puzzle; they were back to being themselves.
Two halves of the same whole.