They finish filming on a Thursday at the end of April. They've been on set since five in the morning, and it's after midnight now: trying to nail the very last take of the second season, maybe of the whole show--
But Jensen's not thinking about that right now, just pushing through the bone-deep weariness to the other side of it. Sam grins at him, but it's Jared under there, more Jared than it ever usually is, and that makes it click: Jensen can feel the smile lighting over Dean's face, small and then slow-growing -- "We've got work to do" -- slamming the trunk down and Robert yells, "Cut, that's it! That's the one!"
One of the camera guys says, "Shit. We're actually done. Holy shit."
Kripke walks up to the two of them and says, "Hey. Good job, you guys. That was -- yeah. Uh, you can head home now." The dude's actually wringing his hands; Jensen's never seen a real live person do that, but then if anyone would, it'd be Kripke. "I'll be in touch, I guess. Good luck."
Jensen's not entirely sure if he's talking to them or to himself.
After Kripke's gone, Jared shifts from one foot to the other and says, "Hey, do you want to go, I don't know. Not home?"
"Yeah," Jensen says immediately. "Definitely, yeah."
Jared gets Rob to drop them off at the first twenty-four hour diner he sees. It's got faded yellow wallpaper and Formica tabletops; just the kind of place Dean would stop.
The adrenaline finally hit in the middle of that last take, and Jensen's got Dean Winchester just under his fingers. He feels like he could shoot him out at any second -- Dean Winchester is his superpower, he thinks dizzily, and then realizes that maybe, kind of, he should get a little more sleep than he's been getting lately. It's been a hard stretch these past couple weeks, but it's been good, too, the kind of stress that has him scarfing down second helpings between takes and passing out the moment he lies down; no time to get caught up in worrying about the future or anything at all.
But they're done now. It doesn't feel like they're done. It doesn't feel like Jensen's going to be able to sleep anytime before June.
He orders the biggest breakfast platter on the menu and a coffee. Jared orders the same. Jensen shreds a napkin onto the table while he waits for the coffee to come.
"So," Jensen begins at the same time as Jared says, "Hey," and breaks off with a bark of a laugh.
"Go ahead," Jensen says, letting the last of the napkin fall to the table.
"What are you going to do after this? I mean, if -- you know." No one's been saying it out loud: if the show doesn't get renewed, if Season Two is it. They've all been doing their best to not even think it, as though if they tiptoe around the idea, the possibility that they might not be back in the fall won't even exist.
But suddenly it does exist, in the Dean Winchester-diner with coffee thick as used motor oil. This time next year, they might be anywhere. They could still be in Vancouver, working on this show or another one; they could be in L.A., negotiating movie deals; they could be in Texas.
They might not be in the same place at all.
"Jensen?" Jared's looking at him funny, and only then does he remember there was a question.
"I'm not sure," he says slowly. "Go back home for a while, maybe? Take some time off?" He swallows a sip of coffee too quickly; it burns on the way down his throat. "I don't know, man. What about you?"
"Rodeo," Jared says immediately. "Amateur rodeo."
Jensen laughs but he's kind of choked up too; he doesn't really want to think about why. "You'd be crap at rodeo."
He's waiting for Jared to crack a joke -- "Are you doubting my rodeo skills?" -- but instead he just says, "Yeah, I know," his voice smaller than Jensen ever remembers having heard it.
It's a good thing that their food comes right then, so neither of them has to say anything for a while. Jensen's not really hungry anymore, but he eats everything on the plate anyway, for something to do with his mouth and his hands.
Jared's still pushing his home fries through his fried egg yolk when Jensen finishes eating. "It's just," Jared begins. "It's not just about the show. It's the whole thing." He gestures vaguely at the diner, the window, Jensen. "I didn't ever think it was going to be over."
Jensen scrapes the butter off the edge of his knife with his fork. "Yeah. Me neither."
Jensen's in the UK for the Asylum convention and Jared's filming The Christmas Cottage in Vancouver. Jensen feels like he's in limbo, stretched all over the place and not sure what to hope for, so it's pretty anti-climactic when Kripke calls at the end of the week and says the CW has picked up Supernatural for a third season. There's an odd taste on his tongue, definitely not joy or relief; it's not until after Kripke hangs up the phone that he realizes he's scared shitless.
About three seconds after that, Jared calls. "Dude, we've got to celebrate. We're going to get so wasted we can't remember our names."
"We're not even in the same country, dude," Jensen reminds him.
"Sure we are!" Jared says. "I'm at LAX. You're in L.A. right now, right?"
"Yeah, through the weekend." Jensen grips the phone hard. "What the fuck are you doing at LAX? Aren't you supposed to be filming Eight Dozen Paintings of Snow-Covered Houses?"
"Shut up." Jensen can hear him cracking his knuckles over the phone. "They gave me the weekend off. You want to come get me?"
"You better be waiting at the curb when I get there, is all I'm saying," Jensen tells him.
"Nah, I think I'm going to ride the baggage carousel around all night. See you soon!"
Jensen's grinning when he hangs up the phone, but it dies pretty quickly. They've been renewed for a third season. They're going to be back in Vancouver the fall, and for the rest of the year after that, and Jensen's going to be with Jared that whole time -- it's too much to take, suddenly. The thought of being apart from Jared was one kind of too much, but the thought of being with him is worse, somehow, a totally different kind of more-than-he-can-stand, and he's fucking terrified of seeing Jared again, all of a sudden.
Jared really is waiting on the curb when Jensen gets there, though. It's got to be the first time in his life that he hasn't had to make at least four passes through LAX. "Let's get this show on the road!" Jared yells, tossing his duffel in the back.
"You want to stop by your apartment before we go out?" Jensen asks.
"Um," Jared says. "About that. I might have maybe sold my apartment."
Jensen gapes. "What? When?"
"As soon as I found out Supernatural got renewed." Jared shifts from one foot to the other. "I figured we were going to be in Vancouver most of the time anyway, so what was the point of having an apartment I wasn't going to use?"
"So where exactly are you planning on staying while you're here?"
Jared stares at him like he's a little bit retarded, and yeah, Jensen probably deserves that. "Your place, dude. I mean, if that's all right."
"Oh, yeah, it's fine. It's just--" Jensen hesitates the barest of seconds to think. "I promised I'd hang out with Chris a bunch this weekend. You know, I haven't seen him in a while, and I told him we'd catch up, so I'm probably not going to be home much at all."
Jared's got his number on this one. "Really? Why didn't you mention it before?"
"Why didn't you tell me you were going to be in The Christmas Cottage until three weeks after you got the part?"
"Because I knew you'd mock me until the end of time," Jared replies immediately.
Which, okay. He's got a point. "It just didn't come up," Jensen says. "Look, it's fine, you can stay at my place. For sure."
"Okay," Jared says cautiously, like there's something more he wants to say and is holding back.
Jensen doesn't push it.
When they get back, Jensen locks himself in the bathroom and runs water over his face. He can't deal with this. He comes out of the bathroom, picks up the duffel bag he never unpacked and grabs his truck keys from the hook beside the door.
"I'll just, uh. I'll be back," Jensen says, not even waiting to see how Jared's going to react, not listening to what he's saying as Jensen closes the door behind him. He takes the stairs two at a time in case Jared's trying to follow him in the elevator, and he's in his truck and down the street without looking back at all, turning his cell phone off as he goes.
When he gets to the apartment complex and Chris's truck is there, Jensen exhales, relieved, and knocks.
Chris answers the door in a pair of ratty jeans and two days' worth of beard. "I don't want any, come back tomorrow," he slurs, trying to shut the door.
Jensen wedges his foot in before he can manage it. "Dude, are you that hung over?"
Chris squints at him. "Jensen? What the fuck are you doing here?"
"I haven't seen you in a while, and I was in town, so I thought we could hang out--"
Chris gets his eyes to open a little wider. "With a duffel bag? What, you get kicked out of your apartment?"
"Um," Jensen says. "Can I come in?"
"You did," Chris says, suddenly looking way more awake. "Damn, boy. What'd you do?"
"I didn't get kicked out of my apartment! I'm just letting Jared stay there right now because the moron sold his place here after the show got renewed."
Chris scratches his bare belly absently. "Oh yeah, congrats about that. Hey, you want a beer?"
"Yes," Jensen says emphatically.
Chris grunts and wanders into the kitchen. He tosses a Budweiser at Jensen. It's warm. It says a lot about today that Jensen pops it open and drinks it nonetheless.
Chris kills his own beer in two chugs, crushes the can on the counter and belches. "So what's Jared doing in your apartment when you're here?"
Jensen swallows. "Um."
The good thing about having been friends with Chris for this long is, Chris can probably figure out a whole hell of a lot of what's going on just from the way Jensen's flushing right now. "Huh," Chris says.
"You gonna make me talk about this?" Jensen asks cautiously.
Chris just looks at him. "You want another beer?"
Jensen hasn't even finished his first one yet. "Yeah." He figures he's probably going to need it.
"So," Chris says, taking his second beer a little more slowly. "I'd give you the sofa, but you'd have to fight for it." He nods toward the other room. Steve is sprawled with his legs hanging off the couch, which is kind of amazing, since Jensen's slept on that couch comfortably before and he's got a good six inches on Steve. There's a line of drool running down Steve's chin, and he's clutching his own wadded-up jeans like a teddy bear.
"That's okay," Jensen says. "He'll be out of here by tonight, right?"
"We were up until five this morning, boy. I doubt it."
Jensen sighs, opens his second can of Bud and settles in to wait.
Jensen's planning on leaving his cell phone off for the rest of the day, or possibly the rest of his life, but he breaks a little after midnight when Steve finally drags himself off the couch and heads home.
Jensen claims the sofa the moment Steve's out the door. He lies down with his head at the end. He feels off-kilter; that's when he realizes the couch is shorter than it used to be, more of an oversized love seat than a couch.
"Hey Chris, what happened to the old couch?" Jensen asks.
Chris frowns. "Someone pissed on it a couple months ago and it was starting to reek. Steve thinks it was me, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't."
"Ah. That explains it."
"Yeah. Hey, I'm gonna go watch lesbian mud wrestling porn. You in?"
Jensen bends his knees, trying to wedge himself all the way onto the couch. "Nah."
"Your loss, dude."
Chris closes the door to his room, and Jensen gives up on trying to fit on the couch. He lets his feet hang off the end and pulls out his cell phone. He flips it open, then closed. Open, closed. He doesn't really mean to hit the power button, but his thumb catches it by mistake. He's just going to look at his messages, he tells himself. Just see what's on there and turn the phone right back off.
Eight missed calls, all from Jared. Four new messages. He's three letters into typing in his password before he thinks about the sound of Jared's voice in his ear, low and concerned, and his guts clench up. And then the phone buzzes in his hand with an incoming call, and his stomach rolls right up into his throat because it's Jared -- he doesn't even have to see the name on the display to know it, and he can't stab the power-off button fast enough. He doesn't turn the phone back on again.
Jensen spends the weekend drinking a lot of beer, eating a lot of pizza and playing a lot of guitar. He stays up too late and doesn't shower, and he leaves the cell phone off the entire time. He thinks about turning it on, but he never actually does it. He's maybe being a little ridiculous.
"So hey, you still going to the Upfronts or are you too busy waiting for your balls to drop?" Chris asks on Wednesday.
Jensen is methodically eating the olives off his slice of supreme pizza. He wants to make sure he doesn't miss any. It takes a lot of concentration, so he gives Chris the finger without looking up.
"Jared stopped by earlier, by the way," Chris says. "He said he's not coming."
Jensen can't seem to swallow the olives in his mouth. He pushes them into the side of his cheek with his tongue. "Why not?"
"Said they were going to kill him if he didn't get back to filming that shitty Kinkade movie. Speaking of which, why the hell did he take that part again?"
"Who the fuck knows?" Jensen says, swallowing. "So he's not coming to the Upfronts?"
"Sounded like not."
"Okay," Jensen says, and opens Chris's laptop to reschedule the flight he'd cancelled.
Chris looks over his shoulder. "Jesus H. Christ. You were gonna skip out?"
Jensen flicks a piece of burnt crust at Chris's head. Chris doesn't bother deflecting it. Chris definitely doesn't catch it in his mouth and eat it.
"Can we maybe not talk about this? Y'know, at all, ever?"
Chris shrugs one shoulder. "Sure. You want a beer?"
"Yeah," Jensen says gratefully. "Two?"
Chris nods and brings over both. They're even cold this time. "I still think you're kind of an idiot, just so you know."
With effort, Jensen doesn't clock him over the head with a Budweiser.
To be fair, it's not entirely Jensen's fault that he falls for it. He was too jittery to eat breakfast and going out into New York City -- where he might run into people -- wasn't sounding too awesome, either, so he ordered from the in-room menu. They've been taking forever, though: it's been a solid hour since he put in the order and since the last thing he ate was a dethawed cannoli that had probably been in Chris's freezer since 1996, Jensen's really freaking ready for his eggs, bacon and toast. When someone knocks on the door and announces, "Room service!" Jensen is thinking about toast that's browned exactly right, dark but not quite burned and with butter already melted on top; greasy, crispy bacon with the bite of fat and salt; fried eggs over-easy with pepper and a parsley garnish. He's thinking about bitter dark coffee, hot enough to burn; freshly-squeezed orange juice in a tumbler; well-polished silverware and a red cloth napkin on the side of the tray. He's not thinking, "What if I open the door and it's Jared on the other side?" except maybe he should have been, because that's what happens.
Jensen doesn't even think to shut the door until Jared's already in the room, and by then it's way too late. He's wearing jeans and what is quite possibly the ugliest shirt Jensen's ever seen -- which, considering what Jared usually wears, is saying a lot. He's got way too much hair and he rivals the Jolly Green Giant for size and when Jensen's around him, he cannot actually breathe.
"Hi," Jared says, looking Jensen in the eye. "We need to talk."
"Sure," Jensen says. "About what? How about the fact that you're supposed to be in Vancouver right now?"
"Or maybe about the fact you left me in your apartment and took off for a week," Jared says. "How about that? I've got your key, by the way." He pulls it out of his pocket and dangles it toward Jensen.
Jensen doesn't take it. He's watching Jared's pissed-off facial tick: the corner of his mouth twitching out to the side. "What happened to you being in Vancouver?"
Jared ignores him. "What the hell are you doing, man? You turn off your phone for a solid week and tell Chris not to let me in?"
"I didn't actually tell Chris not to let you in. He just, uh. Didn't let you in."
Jared's face goes from a mix of confused and pissed-off to pure pissed-off. "I don't fucking get you right now, Jensen! What happened? What did I do?"
"Nothing! You didn't do anything."
"Okay," Jared says slowly, "so if I do this--" He reaches for Jensen's face; Jensen flinches backwards. "Yeah, that's what I thought. What the hell is going on?"
"Nothing," Jensen insists. "I'm totally fine. I've just got to be somewhere. Urgently."
He doesn't even get all the way turned around before Jared grabs his shoulder. "No, you don't," Jared says. "You don't have anything to do before that stuff at one, so seriously, don't pull this shit. Talk to me, man."
Jensen lunges forward and kisses him instead.
"No no no," Jared says, pulling back. "Seriously, what the hell's been going on with you?"
Jensen thinks fast. "I just needed a little time to think about the whole, you know." He curls his fingers and pumps his hand in the air, like he's giving a handjob. "Having sex with a dude thing." He does his best to ignore the twinge of guilt in his gut when Jared buys it, hook, line and sinker.
Jared gapes. "Seriously? You mean you'd never--"
"Um," Jensen says eloquently. "Not as such?" He's not lying. He might feel guilty about not answering Jared's question if he were, but he's not lying.
Jared bursts out laughing. "Dude, you were on Days and you never--"
"Blowjobs," Jensen mutters. "I gave a couple blowjobs, when I was trashed. But uh."
"Holy shit," Jared says. "So you mean when we-- That was your first time?"
"Holy shit," Jared repeats. "I guess I'd panic about losing my ass virginity too."
"Dude, I'm not a girl," Jensen says irritably. It's weird -- he would have thought that that would have been the thing to panic about. It's weird that he didn't panic about that. Shouldn't he have?
But then he gets sidetracked, because Jared is shoving him back against the wall and scrambling to get Jensen's pants open, going to his knees and sucking Jensen's cock into his mouth. "Is this a prize or something? Congratulations, you got fucked up the ass, have a blowjob?"
Jared grins around his cock. "Maybe. Pretty good prize, huh?"
"Decent," Jensen pants.
Jared swallows when Jensen comes shuddering, knees gone rubber, and thumbs the excess off the corner of his mouth.
Afterward, Jared fucks him over the edge of the sofa. Jensen claws for purchase on the heavy gold brocade, slipping forward as Jared drives in. He can feel the soreness building in his muscles as Jared slows his strokes down, laying teeth to the skin at Jensen's shoulder, just low enough for a shirt to cover the bruise. Jared strokes Jensen through his orgasm as he shudders and pants.
"It's a good thing the couch is already kind of come-colored," Jared says.
Jensen laughs and says, "Fucking ugly couch. Fucking itches."
Jared grins and then his body clenches up and he comes, resting against Jensen's back for a moment before pulling out and pulling the condom off.
"Shit," Jared says, panting. "I've got to get going."
"Where?" Jensen asks.
"Vancouver. I'm supposed to be back there already. I kind of maybe told The Christmas Cottage people there was terrible traffic in L.A. and I missed my earlier one."
Jensen sighs. "When's your flight?"
"It leaves JFK at two."
Jensen checks his watch. "You serious? You've got to get going if you're going to make that, dude."
"Yeah, I know." He's already zipping his jeans back up. "Hey, I'll talk to you soon, okay?"
"Sure," Jensen says. He's pretty sure he's lying through his teeth.
After Jared leaves, Jensen heads downstairs. He hangs around behind the scenes of the Upfronts for a while, but he's not really up for dealing with the whole thing after all, it turns out. He heads back to the room to sleep for a while and catches the early morning flight to Dallas. He doesn't think about Jared at all.
Texas is enormous, sprawled out perfect under wide skies. The show sticks him in a hotel near Casa Mañana for the month. It's smaller than his suite in Vancouver, but at least it's got a kitchenette; it'll do.
His parents drive in from Richardson the first weekend he's there. They bring barbeque. His mom wants to know about his personal life, why he's acting so strangely. Jensen tells her he just broke up with somebody, it was messy and he doesn't want to talk about it. It doesn't entirely feel like he's lying.
He's in rehearsal all the time. It's probably not more hours than he's on the set for Supernatural but it feels like it is somehow. He's going to be on stage doing the whole thing every night, one chance to nail the lines and no retakes, and the script gets in his head to the point that his dreams are nothing but lines of A Few Good Men dialogue scrambled up, out of order. Lou Diamond Philips is kind of insane, but the good kind of insane, except Jensen thinks maybe there should be a ban on the line, "You can't handle the truth!" outside of actual performances, because the dude loves yelling it at Jensen a little too much.
It's different from Supernatural but not that different, really: he still spends all his time yelling at someone named Sam. It doesn't matter that it's not Jared; the name still comes out the same every time. He tries to say it differently and fails. He tries not to think about it after that.
He picks up Jared's calls sometimes, when he's not in rehearsal. It's killing him how every word out of Jared's mouth is like sex -- he could make Jensen come reading the freaking phone book if he wanted to -- and there's an ache in Jensen's gut every damned time he calls. He still picks up, though. He's pretty sure that if he doesn't, Jared is going do something stupid like show up on Jensen's doorstep again, and if that happens a second time Jensen's not entirely sure that he's going to survive it. So yeah, he picks up the phone.
Jared sounds happy when he calls. Harley and Sadie are chasing squirrels in the backyard, Chad's coming up to visit and when he's filming, he's walkin' in a winter wonderland: two feet of artificial snow on the ground at the end of May, in sixty-degree weather. They make him wear beanies all the time too: tan, white, red with snowflakes--
"You've got to be shitting me."
"Oh, and a matching sweater-vest, did I tell you that part?" Jared adds. "They were going to give me snowflake socks too, but I vetoed that shit. Nobody was even going to see them!"
"What happened to the whole getting in character thing? Y'know, really feeling the velociraptor?"
"Matching snowflake socks, hat and sweater," Jared says pointedly. Jensen can hear his shudder over the phone.
"When it comes to getting in character," Jensen says, "I have one word for you."
Jensen gives it a second to build the anticipation, then: "Codpiece." He hangs up cackling. It kind of hurts too, though; his laughter's closer to a wheeze. He puts the TV on and runs lines he's had down since the second rehearsal. It doesn't matter that he already knows them. There's still the chance to fuck them up once he's live.
Two weeks into rehearsal, he gets a call from Danneel Harris. It's been a couple months since he heard from her last. She's in Dallas visiting a cousin and heard he was there for the show -- did he want to meet up?
They go to a bar not far from his hotel. Jensen's relieved when no one recognizes them, although he's not sure why he thought anyone would; it's not like either of them is really that famous.
Jensen liked Danneel from the start of filming Ten Inch Hero, and now he remembers why: she buys the first round -- Bud Light longnecks -- and beats him in a round of pool, barely. He gets pleasantly drunk and they talk about jobs they've been doing, jobs they want to do. Danneel's taking some time off right now -- "Just needed a break," she says, sinking the four in the corner pocket -- and she's sticking around Dallas for another couple of weeks at least.
"We should do this again while you're still here," she says. "It was good to catch up with you!"
"For sure," Jensen says. "I'll call you tomorrow."
They go out for steak, and Danneel downs a whole T-bone and half a pitcher of beer.
"You sure you're actually a girl and not a force of nature?" Jensen asks.
"My metabolism is probably going to die when I'm forty, and then I'll be a blimp." Danneel sighs. "Tragic, huh?"
"Definitely," Jensen agrees.
The night before the show opens, they go to some country show. Jensen can't remember the name of the band. They're not bad. They make him miss Chris and Steve. He orders a pitcher of beer and drinks most of it himself by mistake, then gets another. He's not really hearing music anymore, just noise and drums, the smell of sawdust and old bar in his nose. He rests his chin on Danneel's shoulder.
"I think it's time to get out of here," she says, pulling him by the hand.
Outside the bar Jensen trips on the sidewalk as Danneel turns toward him. They're close in together, Jensen most of the way to falling on her already, and it's an easy thing to tip his face down -- except that Danneel puts her hand up between them, backs half a step away.
"I really don't think you want to be doing that," she says.
Jensen sticks his hands his jeans pockets. "Why not?" Even through the drunkenness, he can tell he sounds like a sullen toddler.
She pats him awkwardly on the shoulder. "Oh, honey. You know why not." He keeps on staring at her until she says, "Do I really have to spell it out for you?"
"Yup," he says.
She sighs. "Because you're in love with Jared."
He splutters, "I -- but, how did--"
Danneel smiles at him a little crookedly. "He's pretty much all you talk about."
"Oh," Jensen says. "Did I. I mean, I'm sorry if I--"
"It's fine, Jensen, don't worry about it. We're good."
There's an awkward silence.
"So," Danneel says brightly. "If I call you a cab, can you get yourself home without choking on your own vomit?"
Jensen laughs and the tension breaks. "Yeah, I think I can manage."
Jensen spends half of the day wanting to puke because he's hung-over and the other half wanting to puke because the show opens that night and every nerve in his body knows it. They've got a last short rehearsal that morning and then it's the real deal. He calls Danneel at lunchtime to say thanks for getting him home last night.
"Don't mention it," she says. "So hey, about that thing we talked about last night. You planning on pulling your head out of your ass anytime soon?"
"Um," Jensen says.
He can hear her smiling over the phone. "Yeah, that's what I thought. Good luck. And hey, break a leg tonight! I'll catch you after the show, okay?"
Opening night is fucking terrifying. The show's not perfect. Jensen screws up what feels like at least a quarter of his lines, and his movements feel mechanical, like he's going through motions he learned by rote. He sets up Lou Diamond Philips's big line all right, though, and by the end he doesn't feel entirely terrible about it. His parents and Danneel swear it was awesome, and he tells them that maybe after a couple of beers he'll believe them.
The next night and the next are better. It's starting to work. Jensen's starting to feel the crackle of Lt. Daniel Kaffee under his skin. It's not like being Dean Winchester, but nothing's going to be like that -- and this isn't about that anyway. He'll get back to that in the fall. For now he's doing this, and it's starting to feel like maybe he's getting it right.
Danneel calls and says she's coming to see the show the next night.
"Um, okay. You've been at every show so far," he says.
"Hey, if you don't appreciate my moral support--" she begins.
"No, no, I definitely do," Jensen says. "Really. It's vital to the show."
Danneel snorts. "Obviously."
"What I meant was, is there some reason you're specifically telling me you're coming tomorrow?" he asks.
"Shit, sorry, gotta go!" she says quickly, and hangs up.
Jensen pulls the phone away from his ear and stares at it confusedly for a second. "Okay, random," he says. Danneel can be freaking weird, though, so he stops worrying about it after a couple minutes. Except maybe he should have, because the next night after he says hi to his parents, Danneel nods towards the back of the theater and says, "There's somebody else here to see you."
On some level Jensen knows who it's going to be before he ever gets there. He definitely knows once Sandy says, "Hi Jensen," but the sight of Jared leaning against the wall of the theater still floors him. Jensen broke his collarbone once playing lacrosse in high school, and it felt a lot like this: something hard and heavy slamming into his chest and plowing all the way through, never meeting resistance.
"Hey," Jared says. He's staring at Jensen's mouth. When he meets Jensen's gaze, Jensen's stomach rolls over slowly.
"Hey," Jensen says. Details filter into his mind: Jared's wearing a baseball cap, like he thinks that'll camouflage the fact that he's eighty feet tall. "I have to, you know. Go in there now."
"Oh, right! Right." Jared laughs, shifting his weight. Jensen's mildly gratified that he's not the only one who's acting eight kinds of awkward here. He's never seen Jared this awkward, though. He wonders if maybe his awkwardness is contagious, but if it were, Jensen's parents and Danneel and Sandy would be acting awkward too, and they're not. So it's just them.
"So anyway," Jensen begins.
"Yeah, I'll see you after, okay? I know you're going to be awesome."
"Uh-huh." Jensen swallows. "See you!" He heads back toward the door. He remembers how to speak English in time to tell his parents and the girls he hopes they like the show and he'll see them afterwards. Sandy and Danneel look entirely too amused for their own good.
"You going to pony up here, Ackles?" Danneel mutters as he passes her.
He's pretty sure she's not talking about the show, but it works for that too: the second he's through the door and in the theater, he's got his shit together; he can breathe normally again.
He's in a zone tonight on stage. He barely notices intermission, he's so into it. He fucking ratchets up the tension for the finale, digging at Col. Jessup until he snaps, and it's like a recoil going through the whole place. Jensen can feel the snap in the air. Standing ovation and he's off the stage, riding so fucking high he's barely even aware of what he's doing: he's backstage saying goodbye to his parents, who are telling him the show was great; Danneel is grinning at him and he's hugging Sandy, who is so impossibly small; and he doesn't really know how it happens, but it's down to just Jared and him standing outside of his dressing room alone, and that high from before is gone now, totally gone, and he's back to awkward now, fly by night and the seat of his pants.
There's about half a second where Jensen thinks to do like he's been doing for the past two months and get the fuck out of there, push this whole mess down and hope it goes away. It might, he thinks. If he never saw Jared again, it probably would.
But he's going to see Jared again. Maybe not this summer, but they'll be back in Vancouver in the fall, living in each other's pockets, and he's sick of running anyway.
Time to pony up.
"Do you want to come inside?" Jensen asks.
"Yeah," Jared says. "Yeah."
Jensen's got a half-formed plan for how the rest of this is supposed to go. It starts with breathing and counting to ten and breathing some more, and it falls apart the second Jensen locks them in the dressing room.
"I think I'm in love with you," he blurts out.
Silence. Complete and utter silence. And then, from halfway across the room, Jared starts to laugh.
"It's not funny!" Jensen says, starting to turn toward him and thinking better of it halfway through the movement. "I'm serious. It's fucking killing me and you think it's funny?"
"That's because it is funny."
"How?" Jensen snaps. He turns toward Jared for real now and meets his eyes. Jared's got a little half-smile on his face. "Tell me in what way this is funny."
"I can't fucking believe you," Jared says. "That whole time you were acting all weird and shit, I thought you were off panicking about what we were doing. But you were in love with me."
"I'm still not seeing the funny."
Jared grins. "You were panicking because you were in love with me." He says it like it should be something obvious, and Jensen's still not getting it.
Jensen scowls. "You're repeating yourself."
Jared takes a step toward him. "You were panicking because you thought you were the only one."
"Dude, I know you're in love with yourself," Jensen says, starting to back up but Jared doesn't let him.
Instead, Jared rolls his eyes, grabs Jensen's shoulders and kisses him. Somehow Jensen's hands end up on Jared's hips and Jared has his hands splayed across Jensen's face, huge and thumbing the stubble of his jaw.
"You're not the only one," Jared says.
"Oh," Jensen says. "Oh."
"Are you still going to panic about this?" Jared asks. He's still got his hands on Jensen's face; Jensen leans in toward him.
"Probably," Jensen admits.
"That's okay. At least we can panic about it together."
Jensen eyes him dubiously. "That makes it better?"
"Definitely," Jared says, kissing him again.
And huh, Jensen's got to admit that it kind of actually does.
When they're back in Vancouver for the start of Season Three, it's awkward. Jared tries to open doors for Jensen, like he's a girl or something, and Jensen's stubble leaves Jared's cheeks ruddy and chafed. Jared drools on the pillow and tangles his legs up with Jensen's and he fucking won't share the covers. Half the time Jensen wakes up to the slickness of a tongue on his face and it turns out to belong to one of the dogs.
But the first day they're back on set they nail their scenes, fucking nail them. Jared's whooping when they wrap for the day, yelling, "We are fucking awesome, man!"
Jensen agrees, says, "Yeah, we pretty much win at life," but he's quiet on the ride back, mostly just watching Jared. He can't seem to keep a private little smile off his face at the sight of Jared grinning like a wild thing.
Jared catches him at it and says, "What?"
Jensen ducks his head. "Never mind, tell you later." He's not going to say anything while they're still in the car, but after they get inside and fight the dogs down, Jensen says, "I was just thinking about how much better we've gotten since the beginning."
"Of what, Supernatural?"
"Nah, that other TV show we're on," Jensen says. "The one with Clark Kent?"
Jared smacks his forehead comically. "Oh, right. I knew that was secretly you playing Lana Lang."
Jensen punches him on the arm. "Anyway, you didn't used to be as good as you are now, dude."
"Actually, I've always been the best actor in the world," Jared says. "You know, since birth."
"Oh, right, I forgot. You totally were." Jensen pauses. "No, what I meant was -- you and me both, man. We're good now."
Jared walks up behind him and puts his hands on Jensen's shoulders. "You still talking about Supernatural?"
"Yeah," Jensen says. "No."
Jared kisses his neck. "If I say I love you, will you put out?"
Jensen considers. "Probably."
"You're easy." Jared turns him around so they're facing each other and rests his forehead against Jensen's. "So hey, I love you."
Jensen kisses him slowly, with a bit of tongue, then palms Jared's dick through his jeans. "Yeah, I know. Can we fuck now?"
Jared laughs. "You're totally easy."
"That's why you love me." Jensen works Jared's pants open and jacks him over the edge of the couch, kissing his mouth as he comes, and yeah, this is how it's supposed to be.
part one | part two | notes & acknowledgments | master post