Jared's plan turns out to consist of sending a mass email to everyone he's ever met, followed by buying a lot of beer.
"You realize your birthday's still a couple weeks away, right?" Jensen says. They're standing in the beer aisle at HEB while Jared debates whether he wants the fifth thirty-brick or not.
"What about it?" Jared says.
"Do we really need to be buying the beer this far in advance?"
Jared laughs. "I was figuring we could buy some every day until then, until we've got a good stockpile going."
Jensen eyes their cart of beer. "Like—surviving a nuclear winter? That kind of stockpile?"
"We'd need a lot more beer for that," Jared says. "I think we definitely need this Natty Light." He adds it to the stack in the cart.
In the checkout line, Jared says, "So you're going to be around for this, right?"
Jensen stares at him. Jared actually looks worried. "Seriously? Dude, I'm helping you buy the beer."
"Yeah, I know," Jared says, laughing, his face relaxing into a smile. "I guess that was kind of a stupid question."
"Damn straight," Jensen says. "If I weren't coming to this party, I'd leave the beer-buying to your own ass."
Megan comes over a couple days later and makes them help her clean up the place. It's so trashed that she swears it's going to take her the next week and a half to get through to the rug.
"But it's just going to get trashed again," Jared grumbles, stacking up cardboard boxes to take out to the curb.
"Yeah, but this way, when people puke, they'll be doing it on your floor instead of on your clothes," Megan explains, handing a pile of what might or might not be clean clothes to Jensen. "Here, just throw these in Jared's closet."
"It's a whole lot easier to wash some clothes than to clean up the carpet," Jared points out.
"So what you're saying is, you want to use your own clothes as a drop-cloth," Megan says. "Gross. Although hey, a drop-cloth might not be a bad idea."
"Just don't touch the beeramid," Jared says. "Chad still wants to add to it."
"Oh my God, I'm going to have to deal with Chad?" Megan says.
"Dude, he's my friend," Jared says—my friend, not my best friend, and Jensen can't say why he pays attention to the difference, but he does.
Six days before Jared's birthday, he gets three scripts in the mail, one of which is marked PLEASE READ THIS!! in bold marker. As far as Jensen's aware, Jared hasn't read a single script since he's been in Texas, but he hasn't been throwing any of them away, either. Maybe he's planning on taking the whole stack outside on his birthday and lighting them on fire; Jensen wouldn't put it past him.
They've got the house about as ready as they're going to get it, including the day when Megan actually makes them get down on hands and knees and wax the wood floors. "You know I can't do it, with my knee," she says.
"You busted it in the tenth grade," Jared says.
"I think you missed a spot over there," Megan says, pointing.
Jensen's decently sure that a crowd that includes Chad isn't going to notice whether or not the wood floors are polished, but he doesn't really want to get on Megan's bad side. Still, Chad definitely isn't going to notice the floors. Steve calls to cancel a couple days before the party, but he wouldn't have noticed the floors, either.
"You drop your cell phone down the toilet or something?" Steve says by way of greeting when Jensen gets on the line.
"I think it's in Jared's dresser. Or maybe the garage." One of those for sure, anyway.
"Anyway, I'm not going to be able to make it out there this weekend," Steve says. "I'm locked into playing at L'Scorpion, can't get out of it."
"It's okay," Jensen says, leaning against the counter. He's got a piece of pizza in one hand, the phone in the other and his beer next to him; he's trying to decide if resting the phone on his shoulder and going for the beer is going to end in tragedy. "I'm pretty sure there are going to be like nine hundred people here anyway. We don't need your sorry ass."
Steve laughs. "Fuck you too, Ackles. See if we miss you out here at all. Aw, fuck that, you know we do. You coming back anytime soon?"
Jensen puts his pizza back on top of the box, wipes his greasy hand on his t-shirt—it's one of Jared's anyway—and kills his beer. "I don't know. Maybe. Not yet."
There's a pause on Steve's end. "Yeah. I figured not. You're doing all right for yourself, though, right?"
"Yeah," Jensen says. And that's the weirdest part of all: he is.
Jared still hasn't given up on wanting to use the porch, but he's conceded that it's too hot to be out there with clothes on, so that night they're in boxers and nothing else. Jared's got a mini-cooler full of beer beside them so they don't have to move, which is good, because Jensen's pretty sure his body's so stuck to the chair that it's going to take a crowbar to pry him loose.
"Too fucking hot to think," Jared groans, holding his beer to pulling a fresh beer out of the cooler and holding it up to his forehead.
There's no way to tell where the condensation from the beer ends and Jared's sweat begins, and it's for sure too hot to be thinking: Jensen's thoughts are sluggish right now, half-formed, and he's really not sure what makes him say, "I didn't really know what to do with myself, when Danneel broke up with me."
"Yeah," Jared says, quiet, waiting for Jensen to go on.
"It wasn't a big deal when it happened, y'know?" Jensen says. "So I guess I needed to make a big deal out of it. I just sort of—I guess I'd stopped thinking about what was going to happen if we broke up. And then when she broke up with me, it threw me off."
"You'd gotten used to it," Jared says.
"Yeah," Jensen says. The sweat's dripping in his eyes now; he wipes it off, then dries his hand on his boxers. "It was stupid. I never said it to Danneel, but I sort of figured it was going to just stay like that—I was going to act and she was going to do her thing and we were going to stay together. It seemed like a pretty good plan."
Jared's mouth curves into a smile, barely visible in the dark. "You don't always have to have everything planned, you know."
"Yeah," Jensen says. "I know." He meets Jared's eyes and smiles back at him, and there's something else he should be saying, maybe, but for the life of him he can't figure out what.
Most of the people who're coming for the party live in or around San Antonio. Sandy can't make it—she's filming on location somewhere in South America—but Chad shows up the night before Jared's birthday. He's only going to be there for about thirty-six hours total, but he brings two massive pieces of snakeskin luggage with him, which Jensen helps to lug out to Jared's truck in the airport parking lot.
"What the fuck did you put in this thing?" Jensen asks, voice strained as he and Jared heft it onto the truck bed.
"Tequila," Chad says. "Lots of tequila."
It turns out that Chad's brought exactly one change of clothes and a toothbrush with him. The entire remainder of the contents of his luggage is alcohol. There's some vodka in there and a couple bottles of rum, but everything else is tequila: a solid dozen handles.
"You really think we're going to go through all this?" Jensen says. He's pretty sure they could get half of San Antonio wasted with the amount of booze on Jared's kitchen counter.
"We're going to put a dent in it tonight," Chad says, picking up one of the tequila bottles. "José and I are getting this party started. Who's with us?"
"Come on, Jensen, you know you want to," Jared says, giving him a smile that pretty much kills any chance Jensen might have had of protesting.
By the time the bottle's empty, Chad's a whole lot less of a douche. It's like the tequila took away everything that sucked about Chad, or maybe it's just that you have to be drunk to understand Chad's humor, but either way the dude's hilarious now.
"This is the best beeramid ever," Chad says, pointing at it. His arm flails out so wildly that he nearly knocks it over. "The only thing that would make it better would a tequilamid next to it. It could be like the Great Pyramids."
"But in Texas, and with beer," Jensen says.
"Exactly!" Chad says. "We need more bottles for the tequilamid. Where's the tequila?"
"Still on the counter," Jared says from where he's lying on the floor. "Hasn't moved."
"It's going to now!" Chad says, pivoting toward the kitchen. "C'mon, Jensen, help me out."
By the time they're halfway through the second bottle, all three of them are lying on their backs on the floor. Jensen's staring straight up at the ceiling, but it keeps trying to shift around on him, slide down the walls. "How come your ceiling is yellow?" Chad says.
"Because you're looking through the tequila bottle, douche," Jared tells him.
Jensen rolls over to look at Chad. The dude really does have the tequila bottle on top of his eyes. "Oh yeah," Chad says, letting it fall to the floor. "I like tequila. It's good for the ladies. You having luck with the ladies?"
"Chad's got a wife," Jared says, like Jensen hasn't already met Kenzie more than once. "He's not getting with any ladies."
"Says the gay dude," Chad says, flipping Jared the bird. Jensen's pretty sure Jared doesn't notice. "So hey, Jensen, you having any luck with the ladies?"
"Nah," Jensen says. "Haven't really been looking."
Chad tries to prop himself up on his arm, except he overbalances and ends up falling back onto the floor. "But you could have the ladies," he says, looking deeply confused.
"Yeah, sure," Jensen says. "I guess." The ceiling's tilted back toward the right place, staying firmly overhead.
"I'm drunk," Jared says from next to Chad. "I think we need more booze. What became of the booze?"
Jensen picks up the tequila from where it's fallen at Chad's side and rolls over to give it to Jared. He rolls too far and just stays there for a minute, leaning into Jared's side. Jared's smiling up at him and Jensen wants something, he doesn't know what, but then Jared pries the bottle out of Jensen's hand and says, "More booze," and that's what Jensen wanted, it's got to be.
They end up passing out a little after one, with the second bottle of tequila empty on the floor, and Jensen's hung-over in the morning. It's not terrible, but it still takes him fifteen minutes to work up to getting out of bed. When he stumbles into the kitchen, though, there are a bunch of pans in the sink, and Chad's handing him a plate of huevos rancheros.
"What the hell?" Jensen says.
"This is why Chad gets to stay," Jared says. "Chad knows how to cook."
"No, really, what the hell?" Jensen repeats.
"Give it a try, fucker," Chad says, pushing a cup of coffee under Jensen's nose.
Jensen takes the plate and the coffee and sits down across from Jared. The huevos rancheros smell surprisingly good. They are surprisingly good. It's like Chad has whole new depths no one ever told Jensen about. It's kind of blowing Jensen's mind.
"Hey," Jensen says, realizing in the middle of his third plate of huevos rancheros. "I never said happy birthday. So, happy birthday."
Jared laughs and says thanks, and Jensen's got the urge to get up and give him a hug. So he does. Jared looks a little surprised for a second, but then he leans into it. Chad's looking at them from across the counter and when he catches Jensen's eye he's got kind of a funny expression on his face, like something just pinched him.
"So hey," Jared says, pulling back, "you both up for heading over to my parents' house for lunch?" and Jensen's not looking at Chad anymore but Chad's still looking at him strangely; he can tell.
"Sure," Jensen says. "Sounds like a plan."
"Birthday lunch with beef brisket," Jared says.
"Definitely sounds like a plan," Jensen revises.
Sherri meets them with a cake, candles lit, and makes Jared blow them out before he even gets through the door. Megan tries to smack him on the butt with a wooden spoon—"Twenty-eight smacks for your birthday!"—but Jared evades her and they get right to work stuffing themselves for three solid hours. Jared's parents send them back over to the house with Megan, to make sure everything's ready for the party.
"What else is there to do, really?" Jared says when they get back through the door.
Chad pulls a can of Budweiser out of the fridge and hands it to Jared. "Man up, bitch. Start drinking."
By the time people start showing up, Jensen's got a pretty good buzz going. That's bad news, because the party's not supposed to start until sometime after nine, and it's only about seven right now. "What happened to fashionably late?" he asks Jared.
Jared shrugs. "Free booze."
"We're not in high school anymore, dude," Jensen says.
"Free beer never loses its appeal," Jared says.
"So you're telling me that when you're eighty, you're still going to be breaking out of the rest home to crash keggers."
"With my walker and all." Jared grins, then yells across the room. "Hey Ray, stick the keg by the washing machine, okay?" He tones his voice back down, picking up a couple of beers. "All right, Jensen. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to pound this beer."
"I choose to accept it," Jensen says, cracking open the can.
He completely loses track of time after that. Somehow it goes from still light outside to pitch black while he isn't paying attention. He might have been in the middle of a game of beer pong. He's played five or six games by now, maybe eight, but Ray and Dave just finally beat him and Jared, so they head out the door toward the backyard. It's so dark out now that Jensen trips on something he can't see on the ground, but Jared catches him by the arm before he can really stumble. Jensen's flushed from playing all that beer pong; his arm is too warm where Jared's touching him.
There's a bunch of people out back, faces golden in the light from the tiki torches one of Jared's friends had brought with her. The air smells strongly of pot, probably because Dave's holding a piece under his nose.
"Want a hit?" he asks. Up this close Jensen can see just how red Dave's eyes are.
"Nah, that's okay," Jensen says. "There any beer left out here?"
"Cooler's by the door," Dave says, gesturing with the piece.
Chad's sitting on top of the cooler when Jensen gets over there, eyes closed and leaning against the side of the house. He looks like he's asleep, or possibly dead. "Can I get a beer?" Jensen says.
Chad tries to stand up but instead falls off the side of the cooler. Jensen snags a can of Natty Light out of the melted ice, then takes a closer look at Chad. "You got a concussion or something?"
"I'm good," Chad says, struggling upright. "I'm the master. I'm the total fucking master."
"Yuh-huh," Jensen says.
"I meant to tell you before," Chad says. "You're not going to hurt him, right? Because if you hurt him, I'm going to rip your balls off with my teeth."
Jensen winces at the thought. "Hurt who? What the fuck are you talking about?"
But just then one of Jared's friends grabs a tiki torch out of the ground and yells, "Follow me! I will lead the way to victory!" and another of them says, "We're going streaking!" and Chad's gone, whooping and shedding his t-shirt as he runs after them. Jensen turns toward the house, because Chad's going to lose the pants in a minute and there are some things he never wants to see.
Back in the house someone's started an argument about how San Antonio's better than Dallas, which, fuck that. Jensen doesn't have any idea who either of the guys in the argument is, but one of them is wrong, and he's pretty sure he and the other guy are getting a good way toward convincing him. But then a second keg appears in the middle of the room, completely out of nowhere, like the floor opened up and it rose on a pedestal—which, damn, Jared totally should have told Jensen that his house had a secret basement full of kegs—and by the time Jensen's got a new beer in his hand, the guys he was arguing with have disappeared.
Jensen just ends up wandering around the party for a while after that, talking to whoever's near him. There are a lot of people near him; the house is freaking packed. It's kind of impressive, since there are some days when the place feels small with just him and Jared and the dogs in it, but everybody's got a beer in their hands or a shotglass, except for Chad, who's wearing nothing but his boxers and has a bottle of tequila duct taped to each hand; there's no way that's not going to end badly, but Chad's a cockroach, no fucking way to kill him.
By the time Jensen finishes his beer he's made an entire round of the room, and he hasn't seen Jared since beer pong. It's kind of weird, since Jared's such a freaking giant, towering over everyone—but he's nowhere in the room; he's gone completely M.I.A. Maybe he's outside and Jensen just didn't see him, or maybe he's gone back out to play more beer pong; Jensen's about to go looking for him, but then the crowd shifts and Jensen can see him across the room, plastic cup in hand and gesturing wildly, and Jensen grins and makes right for him.
There are a bunch of people in the way, and Jensen has to veer around the keg and work back toward where he saw Jared—but by the time he's getting close Jared's in the middle of a conversation a couple of guys Jensen thinks he's maybe seen before, that night at the bar, maybe, and something makes him hang back instead of walking right up to Jared.
So he stands off to the side and watches Jared talk to them. It's too loud and Jensen's too far away to be able to hear what they're saying, but Jared's looking at one of them intently while he talks. The guy's good-looking, lots of gel in his hair, and he's standing right up next to Jared, laughing at everything Jared says, leaning in toward Jared when he laughs.
Someone bumps into Jensen's side, and Jensen looks toward whoever it is: Ray, hitting his beer against Jensen's. "You having a good time?"
"Sure," Jensen says. "Awesome." Now Jared's laughing and the new guy's grinning right at Jared, and Jared's flirting with him—not any different than Jared ever talks to anybody, but the guy's right up in Jared's personal space and doesn't seem to be making any move away, and Jared's letting him go for it, and Jensen's irrationally angry all of a sudden, wants to go tell the guy to back the fuck off.
"No, really," Ray yells in his ear. "You having a good time?"
Across the room, Jared's still laughing at something the guy says, putting his hand on the guy's shoulder. "Sure," Jensen says to Ray.
Ray grabs Jensen's chin and stares right into his eyes. "You're not having a good time. We gotta make you have a good time!"
"That's okay, you really don't," Jensen says, shrugging free.
"I'll be right back," Ray says, hitting Jensen's chest. "Right back. Don't move."
"Okay," Jensen says, watching Ray weave through the crowd. He loses track of him after a second, though, and looks back at Jared. The guy's leaning on Jared's side now, and it's making Jensen clench his beer too tightly in his hand, crumpling the aluminum a little—it's a full beer, he doesn't even know where he picked it up, but he drinks a couple sips so it doesn't spill. He's got the urge to go punch the guy in the face, and it doesn't make a damned bit of sense. The guy's flirting with Jared, but everyone in the damned world flirts with Jared, and Jensen doesn't want to punch everyone in the damned world. Right now he kind of wants to punch anyone within range, but that's just the beer talking, and he's not going to punch anyone, because Ray's back at his side, and he's got a girl with him: brown hair, brown eyes, glossy lips, seriously hot.
"This is Tracy," Ray says. "Tracy, I want you to meet Jensen."
"Hey," she says, holding out her hand. Jensen takes it. Her hand is small and warm in his, a little sweaty, and she's smiling at him—not a huge smile, but a small one, just enough to let him know that he could sleep with her, if he wanted to. And for a moment he considers it: the way her breasts would feel pressed against him, her mouth opening under his—
For a moment he considers it, but then there's someone gripping his other arm. He turns and there's Megan; she appeared out of nowhere, like some kind of ninja. "Sorry to interrupt," she says, "but Jensen, I need to borrow you for a minute."
"You need to—" Jensen looks between her and Tracy. Tracy's still giving him that same small smile, but it falters a little when he glances at Megan. Megan's staring him down evenly, the same look she gives him and Jared when she's making them clean up the house—the look that means they're going to end up doing what she wants eventually anyway so they might as well go ahead and give in now.
"I'll be right back," Jensen says, and lets Megan drag him toward the corner.
Once they're more or less out of the way she glares at him and says, "What the fuck are you doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"With that girl," Megan says. "What the fuck are you doing?"
Jensen glances back over at Tracy and Ray. She's flirting with Ray now, hand on his arm, and that should make Jensen want to punch Ray. It really should, except it doesn't; it doesn't make him want to do anything at all. He could have had his chance with her, and now it looks like that chance is shot—and he's fine with it.
"Nothing," Jensen says. "I wasn't going to do anything with her." And it's true: even if Megan hadn't interrupted him, he wouldn't have slept with Tracy. He wasn't going to go through with it, and it's fucking with his head a little, because she's just his type, just the kind of woman he'd go for.
Megan stares at him dubiously for a while, until suddenly her mouth falls open. "Oh my God. You don't get it, do you?"
Jensen stares right back at her. "What don't I get?"
Megan just starts laughing. "Oh, Jensen. Jared's in love with you."
Somehow it takes the words a long time to get through his head, so he's just staring at Megan stupidly until finally he understands what she said. "He's what?"
"In love with you," Megan says patiently.
Jensen's drunk. He's drunk and it's taking all of his concentration to keep his eyes on Megan's face and not let them slide off somewhere to the right, and even though he heard what she said twice now he still can't really make total sense of it. "He told you so?"
Megan's mouth quirks down. "He didn't have to," she says. "Just look at him."
And it's like some greater force is controlling his body, because without consciously moving Jensen's managed to turn all the way around and look across the room at Jared—and the guy's still leaning all over Jared's side but Jared isn't looking at the guy. He's looking across the room at Jensen and smiling, and Jensen gets it all of a sudden, completely gets it: what the tight feeling in his stomach means, why he wants to punch the guy for being anywhere near Jared, why Jared's the first person he looks for when he enters a room. He hadn't ever thought about it before but now that he has he gets it, and he can't help smiling back at Jared, his own grin widening as Jared's does.
"And unless I'm really, really mistaken, I think you're in love with him, too," Megan says beside him, and Jensen can't even look away from Jared long enough to answer, because yeah, that's it: he's in love with Jared. He'd completely missed it before, but he is, and probably that should freak him out but somehow there's no room to feel anything but this crazy joy in his stomach that's pushing its way up and out of him, laughter he can't stop. He's still grinning at Jared and he probably looks like he's insane but he doesn't even care.
Jensen finally manages to look away from him long enough to say turn back to Megan. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah, I guess you, uh."
"Don't mention it," she says. "Just don't do anything stupid, okay, Ackles? Or else I might have to kick your ass."
"Nothing stupid," Jensen says. "Got it." And then he turns and makes for Jared.
It's hard to move through the crowd—it's like the room's gotten even bigger somehow and even more packed with people—and Jensen has to go right past the keg on the way. The keg's still full, so Jensen gets another beer and drinks it, and just when he finishes the last sip he's made it across the room and he's in front of Jared.
"Hey," Jared says, smiling—it's like the dude never stops smiling, and Jensen can't stop smiling either, not when Jared's smiling. "Haven't seen you in a while. You been having fun?"
"Yeah," Jensen says, trying to step toward Jared and misjudging the distance, hitting against his side. "Totally having fun. C'mere, I want to talk to you."
"Not here?" Jared says.
"Nope," Jensen says cheerfully. "C'mon, this way, I'll show you."
Jared's maybe making a joke—"You know I live here too, right?"—but he's following Jensen toward the hall and then down to Jared's room at the end. They've got it shut off with a big sign on it so no one will go inside, but the sign's not for them, and Jensen gets them both inside and shuts the door behind them, then slumps with his back against it for a second, getting steady again.
"You okay?" Jared says, and when Jensen opens his eyes Jared's way too close to him. He's got a hand on Jensen's shoulder and he's looking straight into Jensen's face and he's right fucking there—and Jensen kisses him.
He doesn't quite hit Jared's mouth. He catches the corner of it, but then he shifts to the side, gets his mouth on top of Jared's—and Jared's hands are on his chest, pushing him away.
"Jensen?" Jared says, staring at him. "What are you—"
"Just wanted to," Jensen says, going for Jared's mouth again, but Jared holds him back, won't let him get close enough, and Jensen can't tell anything from his face; it's all closed off.
"You're drunk," Jared says.
"Yup!" Jensen agrees. "It's all your fault. You're like the evil overlord of beer."
"I'm the what?" Jared says, laughing a little even though he looks like he doesn't mean to.
"All the beer in your basement," Jensen explains. "You're holding it captive."
"I take it back," Jared says, pushing the hair off his forehead. "You're trashed."
"Yup," Jensen says. He's got a tense feeling in his stomach again, working its way up, but it's not the same as before—not the incontrollable laughter—because Jared's holding him out at arm's length and Jared isn't letting Jensen kiss him, but the feeling moves further up anyway, doesn't feel nearly as good as the laughter did— "I'm think I'm gonna hurl," Jensen says.
"Ugh, okay, come on," Jared says, hustling Jensen toward the bathroom. Jensen makes it in time but the toilet's kind of a little target, so he goes for the bathtub instead, kneeling on the bathmat and leaning over the side. It feels like he can't stop puking, even after he's pretty sure he puked up everything he's eaten in the past week. Jared sits on the edge of the bathtub and pats his back while he dry-heaves.
"You gonna be okay?" Jared says after Jensen's stomach stops trying to make abortive attempts to escape out of his throat.
"Yeah," Jensen says. "I'm good."
"Okay, here," Jared says, getting up and turning on the sink. "You want to drink this."
Jensen shakes his head. He feels a whole lot better, but he's still pretty sure he'd puke anything right back up.
"It's water, dude. You'll seriously regret this in the morning if you don't drink it."
"Not gonna regret this," Jensen says, looking right at Jared so maybe he'll get it. "Nope."
Jared's not really looking at him. "Just drink the water for me."
Jensen gets a couple sips down. "More in a minute," he says.
"Okay," Jared says. "Come on, let's get you in bed. Up you go."
"Not tired," Jensen says, slumping against Jared's side.
"Yeah, actually, I think you really are," Jared says, helping him onto the bed. Jared tries to get him under the covers for about a second before he gives up. "Here, help me get your jeans off."
Jensen tries and fails to raise his head. "You tryin' to flirt with me, Jared?"
"You got puke on them," Jared says, getting the fly undone without touching Jensen's dick at all. "Come on, lift your hips up for me."
Jensen does, and Jared pulls the jeans all the way down. "You gonna sleep here?"
"Sure," Jared says. "Whatever. Go to sleep, Jensen."
"'M not gonna regret this in the morning," Jensen says into the pillow, but if Jared says anything back, he doesn't hear it.
Jared's right: the next morning, Jensen is seriously regretting not having drunk the rest of that water. He wakes up alone on top of Jared's bed with his face mushed into Jared's pillow, so he can smell his own breath, and his breath smells like ass. He spends about fifteen seconds trying to convince himself it's not that bad, he can just go back to sleep, but no, he really can't. He rolls off the side of the side of the bed and nearly brains himself on the nightstand. He's maybe still a little drunk.
Jensen's got a big fucking headache and for a moment there throwing up is looking distinctly likely, but then the urge passes. The bathtub's clear of puke—Jensen vaguely remembers Jared running water in it last night, now that he thinks about it, but that was pretty near the end, just before Jensen fell asleep. That's the only part of the night he doesn't really remember. He might have drunk his weight in beer last night, but he remembers everything else he did—remembers that conversation with Megan, remembers trying to kiss Jared, remembers Jared pushing him away—and fuck, he's more or less sober now and he's still in love with Jared. It's daytime, the sunlight in Jared's bathroom too bright in Jensen's eyes, and there's no way of going back and making him not realize he's in love with Jared; there's no way of making it untrue. It makes him breathe a little funny, his heart gone staccato in his chest.
He makes himself brush his teeth about eight times before he goes looking for Jared; by the end of it his mouth almost tastes normal again. The hallway's pretty trashed and the kitchen's no different, but everyone seems to have left the party at some point—presumably sometime between when Jensen was puking into Jared's bathtub and now—which, according to Jared's microwave, is 1:19 p.m., so they kind of had plenty of time for it.
Jared still isn't anywhere to be seen, but there's a note on the counter in his handwriting:
Gone for food. Back soon. Don't kill Chad.
"Don't kill Chad," Jensen repeats under his breath. He doesn't see Chad anywhere, but then there's a huge snore from the ground and then Jensen recognizes the shape on the floor, mostly covered with beer cans and a blanket. While Jensen's watching he rolls completely over onto his back, crushing beer cans underneath him, and starts pissing himself.
"Aww, dude, seriously?" Jensen says. "Chad. Chad. Come on, at least go to the bathroom or something."
Chad murmurs something incomprehensible. Then he gets up, still pissing, and lumbers toward the hallway. Halfway there he lurches toward the corner, curls up in the fetal position, and goes back to sleep.
"That's fucking rank," Jensen tells him, but Chad's out for the count.
Jensen feels about eight times more disgusting having just watched that, so he heads for the back and takes a long shower, standing under the hot water until he's most of the way to boneless. After that he brushes his teeth a couple more times for good measure and gets dressed, and then he just sits on the edge of the bed and waits for Jared.
Harley and Sadie wander into the room after a couple minutes and nudge him until he starts patting them, so that keeps him busy for a while. Jared's dogs are attention fiends—you pat them on the head a couple of times and they think that means you want to play with them for the rest of their natural lives—so that's how he ends up on the floor, giving belly rubs to both dogs at the same time, when Jared walks back in.
Jensen sees Jared's shadow before he actually sees Jared, and even that's enough to make his breath hitch a little. Jensen waits until Jared speaks to look up. "Hey man, how are you feeling this morning?"
It's worse when Jensen looks up. He'd known he was still in love with Jared but that's not the same thing as actually being in the same place and looking at him and knowing it, and there's a moment where Jensen's decently sure he's not going to be able to say anything at all.
"Good," Jensen says finally. "I'm good. A little hung-over, maybe. You seen Chad yet?"
"On the floor in the den, yeah. He'll be fine." Jared squats down on the ground and starts scratching behind Harley's ears; Harley lets out a huge sigh and arches up into the touch.
"He pissed himself," Jensen says, watching Jared's fingers move against Harley's skull. "Like, twenty minutes ago."
"That's sort of par for the course," Jared says, then pauses. "So really, you're okay?"
"Yeah," Jensen says, swallowing. And then, because he's got some crazy compulsion to bring this all up, he says, "So uh. About last night—"
"Don't worry about it," Jared says right away. "You were pretty trashed, man. Everybody pukes when they're drunk sometimes."
"I'm not talking about when I puked," Jensen says. "But thanks for that. Making sure I was okay, I mean."
"No problem. But I mean it," Jared says, not quite looking Jensen in the eye. "You were drunk, so whatever happened, you know. It's fine."
For a second Jensen just stares at him and doesn't get it. And then he does: Jared's giving him an out. If he wanted to, Jensen could crack some joke about doing stupid shit when they're drunk, we're cool, right?, and Jared would slap him on the back and probably make a joke of his own and they'd be fine again. That could happen.
But instead Jensen opens his mouth and says, "I meant to do it. Last night. It was on purpose. I talked to Megan, and she said that you, uh." He tries to say that you were in love with me but he can't seem to get it out. He shoves his hands into his pockets for something to do with them, so maybe he won't look quite so much like he's ready to bolt at any moment, and then he tries again. "I wanted to punch that guy who was talking to you last night."
Jared cocks his head to the side. "What? Why?"
"Yeah, it didn't make any frigging sense to me either," Jensen says, laughing a little—nervous laughter, even though the whole situation is pretty fucking funny too, if he thinks about it. "I didn't have any idea why I wanted to do that, and then Megan pulled me aside and told me I was being stupid, and then I got it."
Jared's still looking at him like it doesn't quite translate.
"I was jealous," Jensen says, and that should be clear, it has to be. But Jared's still not getting it, and Jared's about a foot away from him again, close enough to reach—so Jensen leans over and kisses him. He gets Jared's mouth this time, lips warm against his own but not responding, and maybe he's wrong about this whole damned thing; maybe Jared doesn't want him at all, maybe Megan was just making things up and Jensen was just believing it because he wanted to believe it, because even if Jared isn't in love with him he's still in love with Jared—
Finally Jensen pulls back to look at him. They can go back from this if they have to; they can, it would just be really awkward—but then Jensen looks at Jared, really looks at him, and sees how wide Jared's eyes have gone, the bit of hope in them. "You—really?" Jared says, reaching out a hand like he means to put it on Jensen's shoulder and isn't sure if he can actually do it. "You mean it?"
"Yeah," Jensen says. "I mean it."
"Oh," Jared says. "Oh." And his face goes so bright that if Jensen could make him look like that all the time he doesn't know how anyone in the world could ever be unhappy; he doesn't know how anyone in the world could ever need electricity, because Jared's smile is just that bright. Then Jared's hands are on Jensen's shoulders and he's pulling him in closer and they're kissing, mouths open and tongues sliding together and Jensen can't think of anything he's ever wanted as much as this.
After a few seconds, Jared pulls away and looks Jensen straight in the eye. "You're really serious," he says. "I mean, right? You're really serious?"
"If you ask me again, I'm not really seriously not going to make out with you any more," Jensen tells him, and that does the trick: makes Jared kiss him again and laugh a little against Jensen's mouth and shut right the fuck up, and it's pretty damned awesome when he does.
They throw Chad on a plane at nine that night, along with his now-empty suitcases. He looks like death. "I bequeath the tequilamid to you, King Tut," Chad says to Jared, saluting with a cowboy hat he totally didn't have when he arrived.
"Let me know when you get back," Jared says.
"Nah, I'm going to be too busy screwing Kenzie," Chad says. "Hey, speaking of screwing, you're going to get on that now, right?"
"What are you talking—" Jared starts, but then Chad grins and makes an obscene gesture, and oh yeah, the meaning's clear, and Jensen's turning just as red as Jared is.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Chad says. "See you bitches later!" And then he's in the security line and gone.
"I'm sort of going to miss that fucker," Jensen says. It says a lot about his life that that's only the second biggest realization he's had in the past twenty-four hours.
They take it slow. Jensen spends a week learning just the way Jared likes to be jerked off (quick and dirty), where to bite him to make him arch off the bed (on the collarbone, below the ear) and how many times Jensen can make him come in one morning (record so far: three). When Jared's jerking Jensen off, he likes to get his fingers slick with pre-come and roll them over Jensen's balls until Jensen shoots all over his own stomach, Jared's hand, the bedspread.
"That's like the tenth time you've shot all over the comforter," Jared says. "What's so awesome about the comforter?"
"It's the goose down," Jensen says, too fucked-out to move, even though they both know it's not the goose down. It's that once Jared gets his hands on him, Jensen's pretty much incapable of thought, and Jared's pretty bad about paying attention to how maybe they shouldn't get come on the comforter or the kitchen cabinets or the carpet. "I'll get you a new one," he offers.
"Eh," Jared says. "We'd probably jizz all over that one, too. Not much point."
Jensen's spending pretty much all of his time these days smiling stupidly at anything in his path: Jared's dogs, the yard, the walls. It's a little ridiculous. They make out for long minutes in the mornings, letting the coffee go cold, and once they forget about dinner in the middle of cooking it and set the smoke alarm off. Jared wants to try things sometimes—playing with Jensen's nipples, sitting on top of him naked and sliding their cocks together—and since Jared's ideas consistently lead to fucking awesome orgasms, Jensen's willing to go along with it all.
A couple weeks in, Jared looks at Jensen and says, "So hey, I want try something, but I don't want to freak you out."
Jensen was in the middle of getting a pretty damned good blowjob, and his cock's still straining back toward Jared's mouth, even though Jared's still got it in his hand and is stroking lazily. "Go on," Jensen says. He'd say pretty much anything to get back to that blowjob.
"Okay," Jared says. "I want to fuck you."
And Jensen immediately blows his load all over Jared's face.
"Huh," Jared says, wiping his face with his hand and licking the come off his fingers. "So I guess that's a yes?"
"Guess so," Jensen says. His cock's still twitching a little with the aftershocks.
He's pretty sure there's supposed to be a big gay freak-out about wanting a cock up his ass, but he's already given Jared a bunch of blowjobs and also one of his first Hollywood girlfriends was pretty kinky and he let her stick a couple fingers up his ass once—it freaked the hell out of him, then, how much he liked it, but maybe that's his big gay freak-out over and done with, and there's not much point in freaking out about wanting gay sex when he's already in love with a dude, anyway, so he rolls over onto all fours.
"Now?" Jared says.
"Or next week," Jensen says. "Either one."
Jared's clumsy with the K-Y, so Jensen ends up with about half the tube of it all over his ass, but when Jared fingers him open and then fucks into him it's so damned good Jensen can't even get whole sentences out to make fun of him. They collapse onto the bed afterwards in a mess of sweat and come and lube and pass right out, and even when Jensen wakes up in the wet spot in the middle of the night with crud dried all over him, there's nowhere he'd rather be.
Neither of them's really saying anything about it, but as the summer's winding down they're both starting to get a little antsy. It doesn't have anything to do with them, but Jensen starts running with Jared in the mornings, like maybe pushing through the burn in his legs will make everything clearer for him afterwards. That doesn't happen, but Jared's right, the fucker: running does get easier when he's doing it all the time.
Megan comes over pretty often and makes kissy-faces at them, which tends to lead to Jensen turning bright red and Jared putting her in a headlock.
"You got any plans for your life, Monkeyface?" Jared says one of those times, giving her a noogie.
"Call me Monkeyface again and I will end you," Megan says, mock serious, smoothing her hair down after Jared lets her free. "And yeah, actually. You're looking at a seventh grade geography teacher, starting next week."
"Seriously?" Jared says.
"Yep," Megan says. "You gonna help me move to Dallas?"
"You're moving to Dallas?" Jared says. "It's like you're grown up or something."
"Crazy, huh," she says, and Jensen can envision it all of a sudden: Megan in the front of a classroom, pointing at something on a map of the world, knowing exactly what she's doing. He gets a lump in his throat, a little—it's like she's not just Jared's kid sister, she's his too. "You're going to help, right?"
"You know it," Jared says, laughing. "Even though you're just using us for our brute strength."
"You caught me," Megan admits. "I'm completely taking advantage of you. I'm living on the third floor, and I want my couch."
On the fourth week of August they move Megan into her apartment. It's fucking blazing outside, so hot that Jensen soaks his shirt the second they get out of the car, and if they could find a way to siphon the sweat off Jared they could probably end the statewide drought, but they get her moved in all right. Jared's parents take them all to dinner, and afterwards, as they're about to leave Megan to her new apartment and her new job, she hugs each of them close.
"I guess you're kind of okay, Ackles," Megan says to him, holding onto his arms and looking at him. "Take care of yourself, and keep an eye on this loser for me, okay?" She nods at Jared.
"I'll do my best," Jensen says. "And hey, Megan? Thanks." He doesn't even have to say what for; she's smiling at him fondly. She gets it.
A couple of days after that, Jensen gets back from the grocery store and finds Jared nose deep in the pile of scripts. "How many of those have you read there, buddy boy?" Jensen says, setting down the bags of milk and steak.
Jared starts. "Jesus, didn't hear you. Uh, just the one, actually. I started a couple of the others, but yeah." He holds up the script in his hands: it's the one marked READ THIS IMMEDIATELY!!!
"How long ago did that come for you? Like, three weeks ago? Five?"
Jared checks the date on the cover page and winces. "Seven. I was kind of thinking about other things, I guess."
"Guess so," Jensen says, opening the freezer. "So hey, you want T-bones or ribeye?"
"T-bones," Jared says. "Hey, Jensen?"
"Yeah?" Jensen says. There's some note in Jared's voice that compels him to turn around, so he does—and Jared looks like he's terrified and amazed all at once.
"I think I want to do this," Jared says. "I mean—I think I want to make this movie."
"Okay," Jensen says evenly. "So make the movie. Can I read the script?"
Jared looks like there's something else he wants to say, but he just says, "Sure. Read it."
They grill the T-bones and eat them with fresh bread and Caesar salad—Megan threatened to come after them if they didn't eat their vegetables—and afterwards, Jensen sits on the couch with a couple beers and reads the script. It's a war movie, World War I in the trenches. It's fucking awesome.
"So you're making this movie," Jensen says. "Like, this isn't a debate. You're making this movie."
"Yup," Jared says, staring off into space and looking a whole lot like someone he knows just died.
"Dude, snap out of it. You've got a fucking awesome script, and you want to do this, right?"
"I'm totally not seeing the problem," Jensen says. "Really. There is no bad here."
"Really?" Jared says. "Because I'd be in L.A. Also possibly France, but mostly L.A."
"Generally that is how movies happen," Jensen says. "They put you on a set, and you film them. You're still all emo, dude. You want me to get you your Pete Wentz shirt?"
"Jensen," Jared says. "You don't get it. I'm going to be in L.A., and you're going to be here, and I don't want to do that. That would suck."
Jensen just laughs. He can't help it; it's too easy. "Dude, okay, I like Texas and all, but if you're going to be in L.A.? I've lived there before, you know. I think I can probably handle it again."
Jared stares at him hard. "Really? I mean, you—really?"
"Nah, I'm just saying it to keep you from busting out the eyeliner," Jensen says, quirking his mouth to the side so Jared knows he's kidding. "Yes, fine. If you're going to L.A. I'll go with you. You happy?"
Jared slides across the couch and kisses him hard, so Jensen's taking that as a yes.
"God, you don't even—I spent the whole afternoon freaking out about that," Jared says, laughing a little and resting his head against Jensen's shoulder. "And then you just say fine, you'll go with me."
"Well, yeah," Jensen says. "I guess I like you. Kind of."
Jared kisses him again. "Kind of?"
Jensen kisses him back. "Maybe a little more than kind of."
"So you're really going to move back to L.A. with me? Are we going to move in together, then?"
Jensen raises an eyebrow at him. "Didn't we kind of do that already?"
"Huh," Jared says. "I guess we did." He kisses Jensen again for a long moment, hands on Jensen's face. "But hey, what are we going to do about the house here?"
Jensen rests his forehead against Jared's. "Well," he says. "I mean, you could keep it, you know. It's not like Texas is going anywhere. We can always come back."
Jared laughs and kisses him again, pressing him down into the couch, and in that moment Jensen's completely certain that even if he had to follow Jared to Siberia, it'd all be worth it to have this.