This was written for the 2015 Spn J2 Xmas Exchange.
“This is such a stupid idea,” Jared said to himself as he balanced the items in his hands with the almost-jig he was doing in order to try and stave off the cold as long as possible.
It was Christmas Eve and Jared had bundled himself up and set out into the softly drifting snow which had quickly turned into a storm...all to go see Jensen. Jensen was his ex-boyfriend and even though nearly 2 years had passed since they’d been together it didn’t matter—as soon as Jared heard he was back in town and had gotten an address he was planning a trip to see him. Of course, the plan had not exactly involved freezing his butt off and not actually having a legitimate reason to stop by. However Jared did not let that deter him. That is, until the moment he was at now—in front of Jensen’s door, ready to knock but suddenly unsure that any of this had been a good idea. But he couldn’t back out now. For all he knew Jensen had seen the lights from his car and knew he was outside. Admittedly he didn’t know it was Jared, but he knew someone was outside and was on his way to the door to see who it was.
So before he could talk himself out of it Jared went ahead and knocked on the door. It took a few moments before the door opened, but those few moments were long enough that Jared realized Jensen had not noticed the car’s lights or had dismissed the headlights if he had in fact seen them. Jensen had the door open before Jared had to face the additional humiliation of knocking again.
“Jared,” Jensen said in obvious surprise and Jared was going to say ‘hi’ or something else, he really was, but not only could he not think of any words or make his brain focus on the required link between it and his vocal cords Jensen had looked just beyond Jared as soon as he said his name, as if there was someone just behind him. That made Jared think maybe someone else was right behind him so he, too, turned and looked. But instead of seeing another person he got hit in the face with a blast of snow.
“Oh man, come on in, get out of this crazy weather,” Jensen said and grabbed Jared’s sleeve, tugging insistently.
Jared followed his lead and stepped inside, allowing Jensen to close the door.
“Here,” he said, thrusting both items he had been clutching in his arms at Jensen who looked down at the items in renewed surprise.
“Um, thanks?” he offered hesitantly as he took them and Jared wasn’t surprised to hear the tone. On the one hand while the t-shirt had formerly been Jensen’s and was the only thing Jensen had left behind when they broke up it now looked like a soggy mess instead of the perfectly or at least relatively rational explanation for Jared’s presence at Jensen’s home. And if it looked bad the poinsettia Jensen now held in his other arm looked at the very least out of place if not completely pathetic. It was one of the white ones the stores sometimes spray-painted with colored glitter in an attempt to entice passersby and the one in question was a rather inexplicable pink. It had been Jared’s backup reason; a sort of belated housewarming and Merry Christmas gift rolled up into one but now paired with the t-shirt it just made a horrible impression.
And this whole thing had been a horrible idea to begin with, Jared finally acknowledged. He should not have come here tonight. He should have just mailed the shirt to Jensen with a note which he could have agonized over for a bit but which would have hopefully actually served to give Jared some measure of closure. Because no closure was going to come from this meeting. Instead it was just humiliation and regret Jared felt. Well, that wasn’t all Jared was feeling. He was sad, and he hadn’t prepared himself for the possibility of feeling sad so it caught him completely off guard and threatened to overwhelm him. Jensen was beautiful—always had been and he still managed to take Jared’s breath away with no effort. But seeing him in person, so close and looking just like he had the last time they were together, the last time Jared had looked at him and been able to call him ‘love’, messed with Jared’s head. He couldn’t do this, he couldn’t stay here and make awkward small talk and maybe meet Jensen’s new lover or hell, maybe not that new of a lover. And so he shook his head and backed up just as Jensen took a step back of his own.
“Merry Christmas,” Jared muttered and he turned and was back out the door before Jensen could react.
The temperature seemed to have dropped about ten degrees in just the short amount of time he’d been inside Jensen’s place. He practically ran back to his car, sliding a bit, and all but threw himself inside, hoping for a respite from the brutality of the weather. However it was just as cold inside the car and Jared cursed as he realized he’d have to drive for a good while before the heat would kick back on to the point where it actually made a difference. He shook his head and prepared to leave this whole night behind him and chalk the experience up to maybe the dumbest thing he’d ever done. He turned the key and when nothing happened he frowned, realizing when he had to turn it back that yes, he had in fact turned the key already, he hadn’t forgotten or something else foolish. So he tried again and nothing once again was the result. No sound of the engine trying to turn over, no sputtering, nothing. Jared banged his head on the steering wheel and cursed his life again before looking back up and out at Jensen’s house once more. He wasn’t as surprised as he should have been to see Jensen’s silhouette in the living room window looking out at him and he sighed heavily before shuddering, the cold getting to him once more. He was smart enough to know he was beaten and so he gathered his courage and got back out of the car and carefully but quickly made his way to the door which opened just as he made it.
“My car won’t start,” Jared admitted in a mumble, eyes on his feet and wasn’t surprised to hear Jensen huff a laugh. He was surprised to feel himself pulled back into the entryway of Jensen’s home.
“Well that’s not really surprising considering that hunk of junk barely works when the weather isn’t near a snow apocalypse. I can’t believe you’re still driving it,” Jensen told him with more tease in his voice than Jared would have thought he’d have. He lifted his gaze in time to see Jensen look around him and out the open door and when he saw the position of Jared’s car he sighed and closed the door behind Jared. Jared watched as Jensen opened another door to reveal a closet from which he pulled out a coat.
“You’ll have to give me a hand with pushing your car down the driveway so I can try and get mine out.”
And what exactly had Jared interrupted here? He’d have thought Jensen would already be in for the night so it was a surprise to learn the older man apparently had plans to be somewhere else. He was curious enough to ask.
“Get yours out? Why?”
“Why? So I can take you home.”
Say what now?
“You want to drive me home? In this? That’s crazy!” Jared insisted.
Jensen’s look spoke volumes.
“Obviously you’d rather risk certain death than stay here so I’m trying to respect your wishes and get you where you want to be.”
Jared shook his head and tried to ignore the blush he could feel blooming all over his face. Could he have messed this up any more?
“No, it’s not that. It’s just that I show up here late, uninvited, and interrupt your Christmas plans. I can’t…don’t want to put you—and um, anyone else—out any more than I already have.”
Jensen watched him for a minute before he took the couple of steps needed to go back to the closet and hang up his coat once more.
“I don’t have big plans or anything. I was just watching a movie. Alone. So you’re not intruding on anything, alright?”
After taking a moment to gauge Jensen’s sincerity Jared nodded and Jensen mimicked the action.
“Okay then,” the older man said, stepping back and motioning Jared forward, “why don’t you go ahead and mosey on into the living room and make yourself comfortable by the fire and I’ll see about rustling up something hot to drink? Sound good?”
“Yeah,” Jared said and it did. He followed Jensen, moving over to the couch by the fireplace and taking everything in as he went. The living room was more of a great room, with the kitchen area clearly visible from the couch so Jared had no problem with still keeping Jensen in his line of sight. But he soon found his attention drawn by all the holiday cheer on display. There were lots of Christmas decorations up and they made Jared smile as he gazed at the lights and tree and ornaments. There was even a stocking hung by the fire.
“You certainly went all out with the Christmas stuff,” Jared remarked.
“Yeah, well, this is the first Christmas I’ve felt like putting anything up in a while so I may have gone overboard,” Jensen said with a laugh.
“It looks good,” Jared assured him.
When the silence fell once more Jared started to feel a bit antsy so he looked around again in order to hopefully find something else he could distract himself with. He grabbed the book on the coffee table in front of him, frowning a little when he read the title.
“Overcoming Jealousy and Possessiveness?” Jared read the title aloud, turning to Jensen. “You reading this?”
Jensen gave a sort of half-hearted shrug.
”Yeah,” he admitted, “I know that was a huge part of the problems between us, why we broke up, so I thought it was something I should work on.”
And Jared was stunned. Not just that Jensen was reading the book in the first place but because he was actually acknowledging the stuff that went wrong between them. They’d had a knock-down-drag-out fight one day and that was it--no talking about what had happened, just boom--done. And Jared had given up hope of ever discovering how Jensen felt about things ending the way they had but now he thought there might be a chance. Though as Jared casually flipped through the book, reading a few sentences here and there whenever something caught his eye, he realized Jensen might have a different idea of just what had gone wrong between them.
“I’m going to have to ask you what exactly you’re defining as the problems between us.”
“Here you go,” Jensen said as he crossed back over to the couch and handed Jared a mug filled with a steaming liquid.
Jared thought Jensen wasn’t going to answer his question after all and he smiled a little sadly as he realized he couldn’t force the other man to talk about anything even if he desperately wanted to hear the answer. So he decided to go ahead and change the topic. He raised the mug to his lips, grateful for the warmth of the ceramic. He could already feel it heating his fingers up. Just before he took a sip he smelled something delicious that he couldn’t quite place coming from what he had assumed was a mug of hot chocolate.
“What’s in this?” he asked, “It smells great. “
“A spiked hot chocolate recipe I’ve been experimenting with,” Jensen told him.
“Spiked? What’s in it?”
“Nutella and Frangelico.”
Jared took a sip and almost moaned aloud as the taste of hazelnuts exploded on his tongue.
“This is incredible,” Jared told him, “good thing I’m not planning on driving anywhere.”
“When you kissed--” Jensen suddenly blurted out; breaking off for a moment and Jared wondered what the hell he was talking about until it him with a jolt. Jensen was answering his question from before. As Jared sat and waited for Jensen to continue he could see the muscle in his jaw twitch for a second as he came to grips with the obvious emotion the memory caused. “I hated that you even wanted to kiss anyone else. I wanted you to be mine and mine alone and the thought you weren’t invested in us like I was--” he stopped speaking again but this time he merely shook his head and remained silent.
And this was what Jared had wanted for so long, to talk about what had happened. But now that it was actually happening he found the words were stuck in his throat however he forced them out because he knew he’d regret not talking about this just as much as he still regretted losing Jensen.
“I liked that feeling, of knowing that you thought of me as yours and you didn’t want anyone else having the kind of relationship we did. What I didn’t like was you not trusting me to not betray that feeling by doing something. But with some distance from the whole thing I can admit it was stupid to kiss anyone else, even if it was just a mistletoe kiss. It didn’t occur to me you would see it another way and it should have.”
“I get that, I really do. I know from that same distance that I really overreacted. And I promise you I’m—not that it matters, now. Because, of course, there’s me and well...” Jensen trailed off once again and Jared had no idea what he was going to say next. But he would not have predicted the words even if he’d been given only two choices. “You’re with Chad now so it’s probably for the best that--”
“Wait.” And Jared had to stop Jensen because the words he uttered made absolutely no sense to him. So Jared had to have heard wrong, right? “Chad? Who’s with Chad? Someone is doing something with Chad?”
“Yeah,” Jensen said, squinting his eyes a little like he didn’t know if Jared was being serious. “You’re dating Chad now.”
And the way he said it made it sound like he was explaining it to Jared who should by all rights be the first person to understand that concept.
“Dating Chad?” Jared said with a frown. “I don’t know where you got that idea--wait where did you get that idea?”
”From Chad of course,” Jensen said.
”Chad told you that we were dating? Why would he do that? When did he do that?”
”About maybe 6 weeks ago I guess?” Jensen said, “The week before Thanksgiving when I saw him?”
“The week before Thanksgiving?” Jared repeated and then when the meaning of the words actually sunk in he had to ask although he was afraid of the answer. “Just how long have you been in town, Jensen?”
”Since just before Halloween,” Jensen replied with a shrug, “although that’s really when I finished foreclosing on this place,” he said gesturing around him, “I didn’t actually move in here until around Thanksgiving time.”
”So you’ve been here this whole time? And you never...” Jared trailed off not really sure he could bring himself to ask why if Jensen was in town that whole time he had never sought Jared out. Because he realized now that if he hadn’t shown up tonight more likely than not he and Jensen would never have seen each other unless it was a chance meeting.
”Hey,” Jensen said, cutting into Jared’s thoughts, “I wanted to come see you, I really did but I ran into Chad first and once he told me the two of you were dating...” he stopped and shrugged, “I wasn’t really interested in seeing the two of you together what can I say?”
And Jared could understand that and he breathed easier upon hearing Jensen’s admission. He himself had been agonizing over whether or not Jensen was dating anyone and if his appearance was going to be more awkward given the necessity of seeing that person in the flesh. He was going to say something about it to Jensen but then his attention was caught by the TV where the movie Jensen had been watching was still paused. He recognized the scene.
“You’re watching Still Breathing?”
Jensen nodded and flushed a little.
“But you hate this movie,” Jared said unsure why he felt the need to remind the other man of this fact.
“Well I wouldn’t go that far,” Jensen said, “but it occurred to me recently that maybe I was more like Roz than I had wanted to accept when we first saw it together and I wanted to re-watch it and see if accepting that might make the movie more enjoyable for me.”
“And does it?” Jared asked, unable to help but get excited at the thought he might be witnessing Jensen’s opinion change on a movie he himself had an inexplicable soft spot for.
Jensen flushed again this time even deeper and Jared couldn’t help but laugh at the guilty expression.
“You still hate it, don’t you?”
“I told you, I don’t hate it,” Jensen said but Jared could tell he was just trying to be nice, “but it’s still not my favorite, sorry.”
Jared shook his head.
“No need to apologize,” he assured him, “it’s okay to like different things.”
“That’s definitely something I’ve been working on,” he said.
“What do you mean?” Jared asked and Jensen sighed before reaching up to rub at the back of his neck, a nervous habit of his Jared had almost forgotten about until he saw it happening in front of his eyes.
“I was in therapy,” Jensen admitted, keeping his gaze averted from Jared as he spoke in the hushed tones of someone confessing, “and one of the things I learned was that having outside interests, things which only I like, can be a really good thing for a relationship.”
“You were in therapy?” Jared asked, blown away by the notion his reserved ex would have ever gone in for something which required the voluntary sharing of feelings. “When?”
“Earlier this year,” Jensen answered .
“Why were you in therapy? I mean, if it’s OK for me to ask?” Jared added belatedly, realizing that something may have happened to Jensen and that something might just be something the other man had no desire to talk about. And sadly, Jared no longer held a place of significance in Jensen’s life thus he could no longer claim even the right to feel like he was someone Jensen could open up to if the other man were so inclined.
“I guess there were a lot of little things,” Jensen began, “but they all kind of started to pile up on each other until my life was more stress than anything else. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been really happy and I started having a lot of regrets about the direction my life had taken. Work was really difficult for me—after my dad passed we discovered the company was worse off than anyone had realized so not only was I having to deal with a move, new job, and the ending of two of the most significant relationships in my life all around the same time, I suddenly was expected to put everything I was dealing with behind getting the company back into solvency. And so I was really resentful of everyone and everything and pretty much not a fun person to be around. So it got to the point where the company finally started turning around maybe the end of summer, beginning of fall of last year? And so once that huge stress was off my plate everything else kind of started to overwhelm me at the same time and I just knew I had to find some way to deal with everything and I found that book,” he said gesturing to the book on the coffee table, “and I thought it was a good place to start. Ironically, I thought it was a good place to start because I was sure that out of everything that had happened to me, the one thing I knew for sure and could hold onto was that I was in the right about us breaking up. And so I knew that I was going to open that book, I was going to start to read, and I was going to be proven right. I was going to get to say that the people this book was intended for had nothing in common with me and I could go ahead and cross one more thing off of my list of things I was worried about. But instead, the more I read the less I was sure of anything, except for one thing––and that was I was relating to the people this book was written for way more than I ever wanted to. And that thought really upset me; that I was somehow this person and I had been so self-absorbed I never noticed.”
“I’m going to have to stop you there for a minute,” Jared said, unable to let Jensen continue with his train of thought when it was clear to Jared that Jensen had a different idea of who he was than the person Jared had known him to be when they were together.
Jensen was beating himself up over things in the book and from the little flipping through Jared had done earlier he had an idea of some of what Jensen must’ve thought and he had to correct him because it wasn’t fair to Jensen to think that Jared thought of him in the very negative way he was obviously viewing himself. “I don’t know the specifics of every single page in this book,” he said pointing to it, “but I was looking through it earlier and I can tell you that I don’t agree with your assessment that you’re just like the people the book is meant for. You never told me where to go, who I could hang out with, what I had to eat, you weren’t possessive and controlling to the degree that this book allows for people to be. Again, I don’t know what is that you think about yourself but I just need you to know that I never thought of you as controlling like that.”
“Yeah?” Jensen asked and when Jared nodded Jensen did the same. “Well thanks for saying that. That actually really means a lot to me. So yeah, I decided to go talk to someone about what I was thinking, about all the different things that had happened to me and that were no longer happening to me and things I wanted to have happen in my life. So while I’m definitely the first person to admit that I’m the last person I thought would ever be in therapy I can’t deny that it’s actually helped me.”
“You said you were in therapy does that mean you don’t go anymore?”
Jensen nodded his head.
“Once I got into therapy and started talking about everything a lot of what I needed was just to get it all out and not worry about being judged for whatever I was saying. After that we talked about some good coping strategies and then after we got through talking about how your and my relationship ended and what I felt like I had done wrong, what I could have done better and also what it was okay to feel alright about it kind of stalled. My therapist said there wasn’t really too much more he could do for me if I wasn’t willing to open myself up to another relationship. Kind of the whole point of being in therapy in the first place was to get to the point where I was OK with being in a relationship again. He said it didn’t make much sense for me to be doing all this work if I wasn’t going to open myself up to being in a relationship where I could put these life skills to the test.”
“I understand that,” Jared said, hastening to clarify when he realized it sounded like he was completely agreeing with Jensen’s therapist. “I mean you can’t force yourself to like someone and if you’re not ready to be in a relationship you’re not ready, that’s all there is to it.”
“Well I’m not sure it’s as simple as all that but thanks...again,” Jensen said and Jared nodded before he realized he still needed to clear something up.
“I’m not dating Chad,” he said, “in case that wasn’t obvious. About the time you saw him he did ask me out but I turned him down. I don’t know if he saw you first and that made him decide to ask me out or what but, um, yeah. Not dating Chad.”
“Okay,” Jensen said.
“Or anyone,” Jared added, flushing as he realized it was an unnecessary bit of knowledge Jensen hadn’t even asked for.
“Alright,” Jensen said and Jared could see he was holding back a laugh.
“Shut up and press play,” Jared told him with a roll of his eyes and he turned to face the screen and he smiled as he heard Jensen chuckle next to him.
“Your wish is my command,” Jensen assured him as he followed the order. “You want to take off your coat and get comfortable or do I still have to worry about you bolting out into the storm at any given moment?”
“I suppose I can take it off and give up on getting up close and personal with Jack Frost...for tonight.” Jared announced with an exaggerated sigh which made Jensen snicker.
And from there it was easy, easier than Jared had ever hoped it would be again between them. They began sharing bits of information about their time apart in between Jensen’s good-natured jibes at the movie and Jared’s obviously over-dramatic defense of the movie’s integrity.
“I think it’s about time for me to turn in,” Jensen said as the credits finished rolling and the DVD was back on the home screen.
“Is it OK if I watch a little more TV?” Jared asked before Jensen could say anything about the sleeping arrangements. “I’m still warming up a bit.”
Jensen seemed surprised by the request for a moment before he offered Jared a soft smile and nod.
“I’ll just go get a pillow and blanket for you, make sure you’re comfortable.”
“Thanks,” Jared said and watched the older man as he disappeared down the hall and went through a door to what Jared assumed was the master bedroom.
As Jared waited for Jensen to come back out he turned off the DVD player and switched back to the regular cable service. When Jensen made his way out of the room Jared could see he had some clothes and a toothbrush as well.
“Not sure how these’ll fit but I’ve got some socks here so your feet hopefully won’t be too cold. Bathroom is just around the corner,” he said pointing in the opposite direction from where he’d come.
“Okay, thanks,” Jared said as he accepted the bundle from Jensen who nodded and turned away only to turn back a moment later.
“So do you need to let anyone know where you are? I mean not Chad, obviously,” and he gave Jared a cheeky grin which made him laugh, “but someone else? You’re going to be missed on Christmas morning by someone, right?”
And that thought struck terror into Jared’s heart.
“Oh man,” Jared said, eyes going wide, “my momma is gonna have a cow if I don’t let her know that I won’t be there.”
“I thought so,” Jensen said with a nod, “you better call her now.”
Jared grimaced as he noticed the time on his cell phone but he quickly dialed so as to get the conversation over with as soon as possible.
“Hey momma,” Jared said as soon as he heard her pick up, “I’m sorry to wake you.”
“I’m still up,” she assured him, “and I can’t help but notice you aren’t here like you should be. So where are you?”
“My car broke down--” Jared started but before he could get any farther his mom interrupted.
“Oh my god! Let me go get your father. Where are you? We’ll be there--”
“Momma,” Jared said, repeating himself louder a few more times until she finally stopped trying to wake his father up. “I’m fine.”
“Yeah I’m um—I’m at Jensen’s,” he blurted out and held his breath as he waited for her reaction. It was a very brief wait.
“Jensen’s?” she repeated in that carefully neutral tone somehow all moms possessed. “How did you end up there?”
“Well, um, I was bringing him sort of a combination housewarming/Merry Christmas present to welcome him back to town, you know? And, uh, my car died in his driveway. So he’s putting me up for the night.”
“Why don’t you give me his address and once the roads are cleared we’ll come get you?”
“Oh, uh, well I think we’re going to try and get Bessie started in the morning--” Jared said and Jensen snorted at the reminder of Jared’s car’s nickname, “and I might be able to just drive myself. I can let you know, though. Okay?”
“All right,” his mom said, “oh and don’t worry about missing anything in the morning. The storm’s keeping everyone who isn’t already here away so we’re talking about not celebrating proper until the 26th, God willing.”
“Oh good,” Jared said, “Well not good, obviously, because I know everyone would rather be together but good because everyone’s safe.”
He could feel himself blush because he knew he was rambling and worse, his mom and Jensen both knew it, too.
“Well you just get some sleep,” his mom said, “and we’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay, momma, good night,” Jared said and hung up before he could embarrass himself any further. He turned to look at Jensen and found the other man’s gaze already on him. “Yeah, so, um, thanks for reminding me to call. I really would have gotten an earful later.”
Not that he didn’t anticipate getting an earful anyway, namely about whose house he was currently at but he didn’t figure Jensen needed to know that.
“Well if you need anything let me know,” Jensen said, rubbing the back of his neck again as he slowly backed up. “Otherwise....goodnight, Jared.”
“Goodnight, Jensen,” Jared said, watching the other man until he disappeared behind the closed door of the bedroom.
Jared sighed and faced the TV again, hoping to find something to help him fall asleep so he would stop thinking thoughts he had no business thinking. Thoughts like how he could go knock on that door and see if Jensen was interested in helping him make sure he stayed warm all through the night. He shook his head and kept flipping the channels, settling on The Muppet Christmas Carol before getting up and going to the bathroom to get ready for the sleep he wasn’t sure was coming. He came back to the living room and arranged himself on the couch and prepared to spend the rest of the night watching television. And indeed he made it through the Muppets without falling asleep and he started watching A Christmas Story, sure he was in for another few hours of unrest but he fell asleep before Ralphie got his Red Ryder BB gun. He was surprised to feel himself being gently shook what felt like only a few minutes later.
“Hey,” Jensen said quietly. “Do you want to go get in bed, sleep a little bit longer?”
“What time is it?” Jared asked, rubbing at his eyes.
“Early still. There really isn’t anything else to do besides drink coffee and wait until the snowplows pass through, so if you’re tired there’s a perfectly good bed waiting for you to spend a few hours in it. It’s up to you.”
Jensen reached down a hand to Jared who looked at it for a moment, trying and failing to remember the last time he had held Jensen’s hand. Before he could overthink it he reached out his own hand and let Jensen pull him to his feet. And it was when they were standing face-to-face, and Jared could feel Jensen’s hand in his own once more that he realized it was a good thing he didn’t sleep in Jensen’s bed with him last night. Not because things would’ve undoubtedly led to an intimate encounter between them but rather that Jared knew he’d already have trouble leaving Jensen again and them sleeping together certainly wouldn’t help the situation.
“Where are you taking me?” he asked as he followed Jensen down the hall to Jensen’s bedroom.
“The one and only bedroom I have. The place came with three but one’s my office while the other is my workout/catchall room so there’s only this one bed I’m afraid.”
Jared wasn’t sure that sleeping in Jensen’s bed without Jensen in it was a good idea either but he was tired enough and he could admit to himself—lonely enough—that he was willing to risk the bittersweet memories the act would undoubtedly bring. He got under the covers on the side of the bed he always preferred and wiggled beneath the blankets, smiling when he heard Jensen’s soft laugh.
“Sleep well,” Jensen said and made his way to the door. Jared was asleep soon after Jensen closed the door behind him.
When Jared next opened his eyes the room seemed brighter though the heavy curtains kept out most of the light. Jared wondered how long he’d slept and he worried about what came next but then he assured himself he could do this. He and Jensen had gotten along well last night, really well, and so there was no reason for today to be awkward.
“Hey,” he said as he emerged from the bedroom and saw Jensen working on his laptop at the dining room table.
“Hey,” Jensen repeated with a smile, getting up and closing the lid of the laptop, “you hungry? I’ve got pancake mix and bacon and eggs. There’s a pack of cinnamon rolls, too.”
Jared’s mouth started watering and he was nodding before he realized he was still putting Jensen out.
“Why don’t you let me cook, though?” Jared suggested, “Let me start digging my way out of this pile of debt I’m buried under.”
Jensen shrugged and smiled again.
“Sure,” he acquiesced, “I can get down with being waited on hand and foot.”
And just like that time seemed to speed up, with breakfast (or rather brunch seeing as Jared hadn’t managed to get out of bed until a little after 11) and the adventure that was pushing Bessie down Jensen’s driveway passing by in the blink of an eye. Then there was trying to jump start Bessie to no avail and another mug of hot cocoa, this one unspiked, to pass the time and warm them up again until they received word that the roads had been cleared, thus making it safe to get Jared back over to his folks’. Jared had insisted his parents could come and get him while Jensen was just as insistent he could drive Jared, finally winning him over when he pointed out there were already relatives at the Padaleckis, no need to abandon them all. The drive was equally short and though it would have felt like that regardless due to the improvement in road conditions it still felt like the trip was over too soon when Jensen pulled up in front of Jared’s parents’ house. He turned the car off and they both looked out the window. Jensen drove a truck, actually, and hadn’t that been a surprise to Jared who had been Bessie’s proud owner for so long it always caught him off guard when someone got a new car.
There were lots of little kids in the front yard, and they were obviously delighted by the mountains of snow. Some were trying to climb the piles left by the snowplow; some were making snowmen or snow forts while others were simply running around like chickens with their heads cut off.
“Well, um, thank you, again,” Jared said, “I really don’t know how I can ever repay you for everything y’all did for me.”
“I’m just glad it turned out okay,” Jensen said, “and hey, I got to mock Still Breathing so that’s a win for me.”
Jared shook his head though he couldn’t stop his smile.
“You’re warming up to it, I can tell,” he said and then he opened the door, getting out and wincing at the cold bite of the wind.
The whoops started when Jared shut the door and his nephew saw him but soon he was trying to make his way to the front of the house while being bombarded by both snowballs and kids until finally they all landed in a giggling heap at the base of the porch steps.
“All right, all right, I give up! You win,” Jared finally announced amid loud cheers. It was the cheers which undoubtedly drew Jared’s mother to the door. When she opened it and saw the pile of kids on top of her son she laughed and then looked around, frowning a bit.
“Where’s your knight in shining armor?” she asked and Jared lifted his torso up but Jensen was gone, having slipped away when Jared was at the bottom of the dogpile no doubt.
“He’s gone,” Jared admitted.
“And you didn’t invite him in for us to at least get to say thank you?”
“I got sidetracked!” Jared defended weakly, knowing his momma wasn’t going to be swayed by the feeble excuse.
“Well call him and tell him to get his butt back over here.”
“I can’t,” Jared said, the realization hitting him hard and causing his eyes to widen. “I don’t have his new number.”
But another thought occurred to him and he shook his head before his mom could say anything else.
“Not that it matters because Jensen never answers the phone while he’s driving, not since the accident.”
And Jared could see that whatever his mom had been about to say died upon the reminder and instead she merely nodded, eyes softening. Jensen’s younger sister had been killed in a car accident and it had been determined she had been texting while driving and Jensen had sworn to never do that or to even speak on the phone while he was behind the wheel. Jared was sure he’d kept that promise, Bluetooth technology be damned.
“Well we’ll just have to find another way to thank him then,” she said before turning and going back in the house, leaving Jared to look forlornly up the street one more time before he followed her.
Jared’s relatives were all pleased to see him, none more so than the kids who were thrilled at the prospect of a new playmate. Jared tried to put his apprehension and worry behind him but Jensen was never far from his thoughts. And he didn’t know what Jensen leaving like he did meant. It could be as simple as Jensen simply leaving him to his family but the fact was he hadn’t said goodbye--neither of them had. That could mean Jensen didn’t see their parting as final or it could mean he didn’t want to see Jared again.
The next day after a rather restless night on an air mattress on the floor of the living room Jared was happy to be inside by the fire. The morning had been spent playing with the little kids and Jared let their games and laughter distract him but he could freely admit he was tired and thus was grateful that the kids all seemed to crash after lunch. They were all in the living room together watching the latest family-friendly movie one of their parents had provided as a gift.
“You okay sweet pea?” Jared’s mom asked as she came over, brushing her hand across the top of his head.
“Just a little tired,” he assured her, “I think I wore myself out trying to keep up with all of the kids.”
“So there’s nothing about Jensen bothering you, then?” she asked with a smirk and he flushed.
“I just, I don’t know what to think,” he admitted.
“I’m going to go put together a plate of cookies and we can talk,” his mom announced and as she made her way to the kitchen there came a knock on the front door.
Jared’s dad went to answer it and Jared didn’t even glance to see who it was.
“Well looky who we have here!” his dad announced and that made Jared turn to see who the mystery guest was.
“Jensen!” Jared called out, surprised but undeniably delighted at seeing him again and so soon. He practically shot to his feet and sprinted over to stand in front of him and once he was there leaned down and kissed him without thought, only realizing two key points when Jensen gave a sort of surprised squeak in response:
1) he and Jensen were not back together
2) almost the entirety of Jared’s family was in the same room meaning they were all watching the two of them.
“What was that?” Jensen asked as Jared pulled back, and his green eyes were as wide as Jared could ever remember them being.
“Well if you don’t know I must not have done it right,” Jared offered with a lopsided grin, trying to use humor to not only cover up the incredibly awkward situation he had just placed them both in but also to keep his family from suspecting it was in fact a really awkward situation.
And it appeared that at least it worked on his family who broke out into chuckles and guffaws at Jared’s statement. Jensen shook his head and smiled after a moment so Jared breathed a little easier.
“Let’s go someplace a little quieter,” Jensen suggested and Jared nodded and led him down the hallway toward the kitchen, stopping before they made it to the door.
“I wasn’t sure I was ever going to see you again,” Jared said by way of an incredibly lame explanation and Jensen raised an eyebrow.
“Your car is still at my house,” he reminded Jared who blushed to the roots of his hair, “and I came over because I don’t have your number and I wanted to arrange a good time to have you come get it.”
“Oh geeze,” Jared said though his voice was a bit muffled due to the palm he had raised to cover his mouth when he realized what an idiot he’d been.
“Hey,” Jensen said, taking a step closer and lifting a hand up to pull Jared’s away from his mouth. He took a deep breath before continuing. “Not that I mind where that was going back there or what you might be thinking. But if therapy’s taught me anything it’s that expressing yourself is just about the most important thing you can do in a relationship. And while I admit I’ve been working on things to see if you and I can in fact try again I think we should talk about everything before committing to anything, okay? I want to make sure we’re on the same page and that we haven’t become too different people in our time apart. Because the one thing I don’t want is to have you in my life again only to lose you once more. So let’s see where we’re both at, okay? And then we can decide together what we should be, be it friends or something more.”
And Jared already knew what he wanted but he respected the wisdom behind what Jensen was saying and so he nodded.
“Okay,” Jared said, “So um, what now?”
“Well let’s find out what we can do about your car and then go from there, all right?”
His mom chose that moment to come out of the kitchen and invite Jensen in to eat some cookies and Jared’s dad and brother soon came in as well and they talked to Jensen about what he thought had happened to Bessie. Jared heard words like ‘alternator’ and ‘timing belt’ but he pretty much tuned the whole discussion out in favor of getting his fill of looking at Jensen.
And if Jared thought that the time had flown when they were together then it practically crawled when they were apart. They had agreed that Jared’s dad would take Jared over to Jensen’s house the following weekend and he, Jared’s brother and Jensen would all try to get Bessie working but if they couldn’t then they’d simply tow her. In the meantime Jared would borrow his mom’s car or carpool to work but no matter what he was doing he was counting down the minutes to when he got to see Jensen again.
But finally they were alone, having agreed to talk everything out in private at Jensen’s. Jensen fixed Jared with a hard look and Jared felt a bit of fear at how the conversation was going to go but he wanted to be with Jensen, wanted to try again and so he knew it was worth whatever they had to do.
“That kiss,” Jensen said, “when I came to your folks’?” he clarified and Jared nodded, heart in his throat at the thought Jensen’s serious expression meant he was about to tell Jared off.
“Probably the worst kiss I’ve ever given in my life and that includes when I was in Kindergarten and tried to kiss what’s-her-name.”
“Okay?” Jared said, confused beyond measure.
This time it was Jensen who nodded.
“So I have to rectify the situation. Can’t have a blight on my record like that.”
And oh—oh yeah.
“Definitely,” Jared agreed—a little too quickly if Jensen’s laugh was any indication, “I mean you should at least try.”
Jensen’s smile warmed Jared from the inside out but that warmth paled in comparison to the heat which erupted as soon as Jensen kissed him properly. Jared’s skin tingled where Jensen’s lips met his own, and it wasn’t long before they were each trying to be the dominant force in the kiss. But then Jensen sucked on Jared’s bottom lip, giving it a little nibble before swooping right in and flicking his tongue against Jared’s top lip and Jared was lost. He gave up all semblance of control and simply gripped Jensen’s hips tighter, trying to draw the other man even closer. He could feel Jensen, feel the heat and the hardness between them. As he opened his mouth wider he felt Jensen’s fingers tighten in his hair, holding him in place while he plundered for as much of Jared’s taste as he could get.
Jared was already shaking his head as Jensen pulled back to breathe.
“Still remember it,” he panted out, “still need to rectify.”
And though Jensen smiled he didn’t kiss Jared again. Instead he just looked at him, his expression growing more and more serious until finally Jared was scared to know what the other man was thinking.
“I really want this to work.” Jensen said and Jared furrowed his brows for a moment. “Between us, just to clarify. I really want this to work out this time.”
“So do I,” Jared assured him. “In fact I’ve been thinking and maybe,” he paused for a moment, unsure how Jensen would take the suggestion, but he quickly gathered the strength to offer. “Maybe I could go with you to therapy?”
“What? You would do that?”
“Well yeah,” Jared said, relieved that Jensen hadn’t dismissed the idea entirely out of hand. “I want us to work out, too, so maybe if understanding more about what we’ve each gone through is something that can help I definitely don’t want to pass up the chance. Especially as we navigate getting back into the rhythm of being a couple it might be beneficial to have a neutral third party listening as we work things out, help us make sure we’re both on the same page.”
Jensen let out a shuddering breath.
“Yes. Okay. Yes. Whatever it takes.”
“Jensen?” Jared asked and when Jensen furrowed his brows in silent inquiry Jared gave him a coy smile. “One thing it’s definitely going to take is kissing. Lots and lots more kissing.”
“Yes,” Jensen said as he moved back in, “lots and lots more kissing.”