Back to Chapter One
The next couple of days are busy, prep for the Markov pitch, not to mention the new Brown campaign, plus all the BAU crap. The artwork for Markov is almost signed off, though Jared’s still not sure about it. On Friday, he takes a leaf out of Jensen’s book and spends three hours in the gym after work. He relaxes in the steam room, eyes closed and head tilted back against the wet tiles. He listens to the hiss and fizz of the steam vents and tries to visualize what they’re attempting to say.
He heads back to the office afterwards. It’s late enough that all the cleaners have gone home. He hasn’t worked this late for ages. It’s not like it used to be in Dallas, not now they have a kid. He likes to be at home in time for Jonah’s bedtime, it’s what they agreed when they moved out here. But Jonah and Jensen are in Dallas right now, and Jared’s got a lot of time to himself.
He takes out the almost finished Markov artwork, looks at it for a good few minutes then tosses it to one side. His gut instinct is that it’s not enough. It hasn’t got the wow factor and they need the wow factor to win this account. He gets out his pencils and a new sheet of paper and starts again.
He’s not used to coming in at the beginning anymore, creating something from scratch, like he used to do in college, back when he thought of himself as an “artist” and not an “art director”. These days he’s the guy who signs stuff off, who adds the finishing touches to everybody else’s work. It’s a rush to let his creative instincts run free, to sketch out ideas, to land on something he likes and run with it, to feel the buzz of something he knows could be really good. He jots down notes on colors and fonts and stock images. They’re starting with print and outdoor, though he’s got a possibly awesome idea for an online video.
By the time he’s ready to leave he’s got a drafted storyboard idea for the video, three possible options for the outdoor and print ads and he feels exhilarated about work in a way he hasn’t for a long time. He packs the work up and heads down to the parking garage.
His phone rings just as he’s turning onto Sleepy Hollow Road. There’s not much traffic around at this time of night, so he picks up the phone. He frowns when he sees the display: Dorothy and Robert’s home number.
It’s Dorothy who answers in a rush of breath and apologies, “Oh, Jared, I’m so sorry to bother you at this time of night—“
“Is Jonah okay?” he cuts her off. His heart-rate has picked up, anxiety making sweat burst and prickle under his arms.
“He’s having some problems sleeping. We found him downstairs in the kitchen right by the knife drawer! And he didn’t recognize us, he was still asleep. And his face, Jared, the look in his eyes.”
“Is he awake now?”
“Yes, but he’s so distressed. He won’t stop crying and he won’t talk to us. I don’t know what to do and Jensen’s not picking up—“
“Where is Jensen?” he interrupts again. He’s nearly at home, concentrating fiercely on the road as he puts his foot on the gas.
“I don’t know. He’s not answering his phone. He said he had a client dinner tonight and he’d be late, but I thought he’d be back by now.”
Morgan, Jared thinks bitterly, he’ll be with Morgan. He glances at the clock on the dash. It’s just after 3am here, which makes it after 2am in Dallas. The driveway looms into view and he swings the car through the narrow opening, hearing the gravel crunch under the wheels. He pulls up outside the house and kills the engine.
“Is Jonah able to come to the phone?” he says.
There’s a flurry of noise in the background, the sound of voices, Dorothy and Robert, and then unmistakably, Jonah. He sits tensely in the car, staring at their darkened house and waiting for someone to pick up. There’s a hitch of breath and then a teary voice says, “Jared?”
“Hey, buddy, yeah, that’s right, it’s me.”
Jonah sounds small and faraway and Jared feels his chest clench up. He talks softly to Jonah for a while, gratified to hear his hitched breathing begin to even out. He feels useless, so far away, and curses out Jensen. What the hell is he doing still out at this time?
Dorothy comes back to the phone after he’s finished talking to Jonah. She sounds tired and strained and he promises to try to get hold of Jensen again.
By the time he gets out the car and makes it to the house, it’s 3.30am. He dials Jensen’s phone as he shoves the front door open. It flicks onto voicemail and he swears loudly, slamming the door behind him. He sends Jensen a text, all caps, which Jensen hates, but he’s not in the mood for niceties. WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU? YOUR SON NEEDS YOU. CALL D&R NOW.
He’s too wired to think about going to bed, keeping his phone close as he pours himself a large glass of red wine and falls onto the couch. He puts on the TV and gets out his sketchpad. The earlier burst of creativity has not left him yet and he’s still buzzing with it, concern and anger warring as he furiously sketches. He’s drawing Jensen of course; Jensen and Jonah, together as they were at the airport when he dropped them off two days ago. Jonah’s hand in Jensen’s, wheeling his kiddie sized suitcase, a mini replica of Jensen’s Louis Vuitton executive luggage. They paused on their way to the executive lounge and Jonah waved an excited goodbye while Jensen flashed him an anxious smile. Jensen’s never been a good flyer.
He puts the sketch aside when he’s done, and starts on another. He can sketch Jensen from memory; he’s done it so many times before. In the old days, back when he was a student, he always had a sketchbook on him. He must have made hundreds of drawings of Jensen over the years. Jensen’s got one of those faces. He’s very drawable, or whatever you would call the pencil and paper equivalent of photogenic. No matter how many times he does it, he’s never gotten bored of drawing Jensen.
He’s more than halfway through the bottle of wine and has a pile of four or five sketches, all of Jensen in various poses, from various angles, when his phone rings. He glances at the display, JENSEN.
“Is everything okay?” he answers, not bothering with hello.
Jensen lets out a breath on the other end of the line, a hitch in his voice that’s half-tiredness and half-amusement. “It will be. How about you? Are you alright, Jare?”
“Never mind me, what about Jonah? Are you with him?”
“Yeah, yeah I am. He’s fine,” Jensen says, “I’m sitting in the corner of Addie’s old room, watching him sleep. He was – God – he was really upset when I got here. Sounds like he had a really bad episode.”
“It’s probably just the change of location, somewhere unfamiliar. We should’ve thought about it,” Jared says.
“Yeah, I guess,” Jensen sighs. He sounds unconvinced. “I’m taking him to the hotel with me tomorrow night. I managed to convince Dorothy it was the right thing.” They’re both quiet for a couple of beats, then Jensen says, “Listen, thanks, man. For talking to him before. Dorothy told me how much better he was after he got off the phone with you. He kept asking for you when I put him to bed. You’re so good for him, Jay.” Jared frowns, stares at the half-finished drawing on his lap. It’s a profile sketch of Jensen, his mouth slightly curved up at the corners, like it is when he’s trying not to laugh. He’s still angry with Jensen but the feeling’s dissipating and Jensen sounds so freaking sincere. “We miss you, you know,” Jensen adds.
Is that why you were out until 3am with Jeff Morgan? Jared wants to retort, but he doesn’t say that. He’s not that kind of person, he hates holding grudges, and he really hates being mad at Jensen. Besides, he can tell from Jensen’s voice that he means what he’s saying. Jensen’s an uncommunicative, complicated bastard, but he’s always straight with people. If Jensen says something, then he means it, and if he’s pissed with you, then you know it.
“I miss you too,” he says finally, “both of you.”
Jensen chuffs out a breath. “God, we’re pathetic.”
“Speak for yourself.”
Jensen snorts again and Jared smiles to himself. “So, you haven’t said how things went with Morgan,” he says.
There’s a pause before Jensen speaks, “Okay. I think.”
“God, I don’t know. I managed to convince him to not move all his business, but he’s still moving some of it. He’s really enjoying letting me squirm. He knows that if he pulls the plug Dallas goes down and he says he doesn’t want to see us fail. Big of him, I think you’d agree.” The bitterness is palpable in his voice. It’s painful to hear but Jared can’t help the feeling of relief. He’d prefer Jensen to feel resentful of Morgan than grateful towards him. It’s not that he’s jealous or he thinks Jensen ever would do anything with Morgan, it’s just that... Oh hell, whatever, he is jealous. He’s always been jealous of Jensen’s relationship with Jeff Morgan. Jensen never did romantic relationships, or at least he didn’t before Jared. The nearest Jensen ever got were a couple of regular fuck buddies and Jeff Morgan, who was definitely something more than a fuck-buddy. Jared’s pretty sure that if Jeff wasn’t married, and if Jeff’s wife wasn’t an oil heiress with a lot of money to her name, Jeff and Jensen would’ve been a lot more serious than they were. As it is, he knows that Jensen cared about Morgan, that he had feelings for him that were more than “he’s hot, he’s great in bed, and he’s our best client.” It’s one of the reasons this is so hard for Jensen now.
“I think we’ll probably end up losing about 40 percent of his business,” Jensen says, “which leaves us with enough income to sustain the office for the next few months. But we’ll have to win some new accounts. And drastically reduce costs.” He pauses and sighs again, “Fuck it, I’m exhausted, Jare, and you must be too. We’ll talk this over when I get back.”
“Yeah, okay,” Jared says. He feels suddenly overwhelmingly tired. He glances at the clock. It’s 5.30am, it’ll be light in an hour. At least without Jonah around, he’ll be able to sleep in for once.
“So, I guess I’ll say goodnight then,” Jensen says.
“Yeah, night, baby,” he says, using the endearment Jensen so rarely lets him get away with, but Jensen’s already rung off.
Jared’s awoken a couple of hours later by Henry barking and nosing at the side of the bed. He groans and forces himself to get up. The dog chases around his legs as he makes his lumbering way downstairs. He opens the kitchen door to let Henry out, fills his food and water bowls and leaves them outside on the deck. He goes back to bed.
It’s midday when he wakes up again. He showers, shaves and eats an enormous breakfast. There are no messages or missed calls from Jensen and when he tries to call his cell he just gets voicemail. He does the dishes and stands by the kitchen sink, staring out the window at the yard. He’s supposed to be having dinner with Mark Pellegrino, CEO of Markov Optical tonight. Mark called him yesterday to suggest it. Considering all the shit going on with Morgan right now, it’s more important than ever for them to win and keep accounts. Saying no would’ve shown them as uncooperative. Besides, he was pissed with Jensen at the time, it was kind of fun to say yes to dinner with a guy he knows admires him.
Right now, in the cold and thin light of day, he’s regretting it. He’s exhausted from last night. He’s not feeling sociable; he’s definitely not up to the kind of sociable that involves flirting with a potential client. He hasn’t told Jensen about the dinner yet, or about his cold feet. Jensen would never understand his reluctance, for Jensen this is just part of the job, he’s always wining and dining clients. Jensen has a talent for knowing exactly how far to push things, how much flirting and innuendo might get them an account. In fact, Jared knows from his intern days, and from things Stefan used to say that Jensen definitely went way past flirtation with quite a few of their clients, example number one being Jeff Morgan of course.
But the bottom line is that Mark’s got all the sway in deciding who Markov decide to retain, and if this dinner can actually help sway Mark’s opinion in Providence’s direction, then it’s a no-brainer. He needs to approach it like Jensen would: like it’s just more hours on the clock.
He blinks, aware that he’s been staring out the window all this time. He frowns when his gaze catches on the back fence, the spot on the east corner where a storm blew it down three weeks ago. Jensen’s been talking about hiring someone to fix it, by which he means, getting his assistant, Alison, to hire someone to fix it. But fuck that. They don’t need to hire someone, they can do it themselves. Or at least, Jared can do it himself; Jensen would never stoop that low. Jensen would just shrug his shoulders and say, “That’s what I make so much money for. So I don’t have to do any goddamn manual labor.”
Decision made, he goes to find his tool belt. Jensen got him the belt for his last birthday, handing it over with a quirk of his eyebrow and a leer which promised interesting things, like re-enacting some of Jared’s favorite porno scenes for a start. But given the sorry state of their sex life, it’s only ever been used for more legitimate pursuits, such as fixing the tap in the downstairs bathroom, or putting up bookshelves in Jonah’s room.
He strides out the back door with Henry capering at his feet, feeling determined. An hour later, the determined feeling has morphed into smug satisfaction as he takes a step backwards to admire his handiwork. His phone vibrates in his pocket and he snatches it up, all ready to wow Jensen with boasts of his manly capabilities. Unfortunately, it’s not Jensen on the line, it’s his mom.
He considers not accepting the call but in the end he sighs and gives in. If he doesn’t answer straight away, she’ll keep trying and trying, and if she doesn’t get him within an hour, she’ll start calling everyone he knows until someone tracks him down and screams at him to call her.
“Hi, Agnes,” he greets her.
As usual, she doesn’t return the greeting, just launches into one of her monologues that covers her neighbors’ lack of consideration in always watching their TV too loudly, Dana at work who’s been cutting her shifts, how little Dana deserved her recent promotion, a student in her tap class with cerebral palsy (and really, she’s all for equal rights, but really, the girl can barely walk), some very pushy girl from the bank who tried to sell her life insurance, and her migraines. Jared listens to her and makes sympathetic noises when required.
Finally she asks, “So, how are things with you?”
“You know, okay. Same as usual.”
“That’s what you always say. You should talk to me, Jared, I’m your mother.”
“I do. There’s just not much to report. Business is doing fine, Jensen’s fine, Jonah’s fine, I’m fine. It’s all fine.” Which of course is far from the truth, but he gave up a long time ago on actually telling his mother anything that’s going on in his life.
She pauses then says, “I see. Well if you’ve got nothing else to say, can I speak to my grandson?”
“He’s not here.”
“He’s in Dallas. With Jensen.”
“And they left you behind? Jared, what have I told you about always letting people walk all over you. You’ll never gain anyone’s respect that way. It’s all very well, wanting people to like you, but it’s respect that counts. No one respects a doormat.”
He grits his teeth, says, “It’s for the business. Jensen had to fly to Dallas to check in with the office there and he took Jonah along to visit with his grandparents.”
“Oh, the business!” she says contemptuously.
“Look, Agnes, I have to—“
“Oh, I get it, you have so many important things to do. Don’t worry about me; I won’t keep you any longer.”
She hangs up.
He’s fuming as he finishes fixing the fence. He should be used to their conversations by now. He should be able to let it all run over him as Jensen always advises, not let her bitterness and sourness and belittling comments get to him. But he can’t remember their relationship every being this bad. In the old days she was Agnes, eccentric and indestructible and uncompromising and always embarrassing. She never wore the right clothes, never said the right things, always talked too loudly. If he took friends home then she’d offer them alcohol and pat their cheeks, tell stories of her days in Paris or Nice or Barcelona, of the famous people she’d worked with and the shows she’d been in. He spent most of his teenage years dying of mortification.
Of course, it took him until he was in his twenties to appreciate just how tough things had been for her. It’s not the sort of thing you realize when you’re a teenage boy and your life sucks, and shit, as if everything couldn’t get any worse, as if you couldn’t be more of a freak, you like boys. But now that he’s a parent, in some ways he does understand her more. But in other ways... it’s worse. He could never imagine saying half of the shit she says to him to Jonah, no matter how crappy his life got. And he wants to be fair to her, he really does. He gets how hard it was for her when he was growing up. She did everything for him. She cooked and cleaned and mended his clothes, she worked really long hours at the theatres and clubs and studios, always having to skip out of rehearsal early because she had a kid. It was tough, and he knew that it was his fault she never got those big roles she always dreamed of.
She never had any luck with relationships either. There was always a new guy joining them for breakfast or dinner, some of them assholes, a lot of them just regular guys who couldn’t hack the drama or intensity of being with Agnes. There was a couple who lasted longer, like Uncle Peter who brought them to the US when Jared was five. He bailed on them three years later, though Jared still bore his name: Padalecki, that was Uncle Peter’s name, the one Jared’s never bothered changing. Not that he knows who his real father is; Agnes has never been sure either, saying it was probably the tall Croatian boy who waited tables at the nightclub in Marseille. “But it doesn’t matter,” Agnes would say with an elegant wave of her hand, “Marilyn Monroe never knew who her real father was, and she was a real star.”
But these days their conversations are barely civil. She hates what he’s doing with his life. She hates advertising, hates the fact he’s no longer creating real art. And she hates Jensen. She refused to attend the wedding, still refuses to stay with them when she visits east, though she’s always willing to be put up in a fancy hotel at Jensen’s expense. Ironically, Jonah, Jensen’s son, is the only person she seems to have any real affection for, and she lavishes love and attention and presents on him whenever she does visit.
But he can remember when things weren’t like this between them. She was amazing when he came out to her. She pulled him close and stroked his hair and said, “Of course my baby likes boys, it’s the only sensible thing.” Unfortunately her acceptance didn’t extend as far as the guys he dated or the one he chose to spend the rest of his life with. Not that he doesn’t second guess that decision himself from time to time.
Whatever, he needs to stop thinking about Agnes. Jensen’s always telling him that he needs to let it go, to quit beating himself up about her. “She can look after herself,” Jensen says, which is true, but doesn’t stop him from worrying or feeling guilty.
Jared’s sweating in his leather jacket and fancy burgundy button-down as he sits on the train heading into the city. He checks into his hotel and nervously primps in front of the bathroom mirror before he walks the four blocks to the restaurant.
Mark’s waiting for him at the table, an Old Fashioned resting by his elbow. He gets up to take Jared’s hand with a welcoming smile. He’s not a handsome guy, he’s what Agnes would call “jolie laide”, appealing and charismatic but not handsome, not like Jensen. Of course, not many people look like Jensen. Jared can remember thinking the first time he ever met Jensen that he was the most attractive guy he’d ever seen who wasn’t on TV. It’s an opinion that hasn’t changed.
“First of all, no shop-talk,” Mark says. “My mind’s already made up, so nothing you say is going to change it.”
Jared feels his heart sink, he nods, forces a smile. “Okay, that’s fine by me.”
Mark smirks around the rim of his glass. “Don’t look so disappointed. The news is good.”
“Really? I mean, we haven’t even pitched yet.”
Mark shrugs. “I’ve heard good things. I’ve seen what you do. That last Brown campaign was excellent. I know you won’t let me down.”
Jared nods, “Right, so no pressure then.”
“None at all,” Mark says, lowering his glass and smiling at Jared. His smile is a little wolfish, a little predatory. It reminds Jared disconcertingly of Jensen, of watching him sweet-talk someone into bed or into business; there was never much difference in how Jensen operated. “You want a drink?”
The food is amazing, and he really enjoys it, making appreciative noises as he clears his plate, which seems to amuse Mark. They drink Old Fashioneds and some good red wine. He’s not an expert on wine, it’s more Jensen’s thing, but he knows what he likes. He takes down the name and vintage in his BlackBerry, which also amuses Mark. In fact, Mark seems to be generally amused by him, watching him with this little curl to his mouth and a glint in his eyes that Jared’s not quite sure about. He gets up to go to the bathroom, and he can feel Mark’s eyes on him, blatantly checking him out as he walks away.
It’s nice to feel sexually desired again, he thinks, as he checks out his reflection in the washroom. He used to love the ritual and rigmarole of dating, the excitement and anticipation, the look of appreciation in the other guy’s face when their eyes met. Chad used to rag his ass about it all the time, calling him The Serial Dater, and saying it was freaking unnatural for a dude, even a gay dude.
Jensen wasn’t into dating. “That’s why we’re men,” he always said, “so we can skip the boring getting-to-know-you crap, and fast-forward to the fucking.” He and Jensen never dated. They hung out and had a lot of sex. Occasionally they went places together, usually with the rest of Jensen’s friends. It wasn’t dating. Even now that they’re married, he can’t remember the last time they went out to dinner or to a movie or even just for a drink together.
“So, you’re married,” Mark says after they’ve cleared dessert. He leans over to top up Jared’s glass. “How’s that working for you?”
Jared pushes out a breath, he’s feeling kinda drunk, his face flushed from the alcohol. There’s a bead of sweat on his upper lip and he licks it off, tasting the saltiness. He can feel Mark’s eyes on his face, on his mouth, and he feels the flush deepen.
“It’s good,” he says at last.
“Really?” says Mark. He doesn’t look convinced, his eyebrows arched, expression knowing as he takes a long sip of his wine.
Jared shrugs. “Yeah, well, you know how it is. Or maybe you don’t. I don’t know. Are you married?”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It was a mistake – for both of us. Wrong gender, for a start.”
Jared makes a face. “Yikes.”
“Yeah.” Mark leans back in his seat. His eyes narrow, his gaze getting more heated, more deliberate. “Sometimes, you don’t realize something about yourself – or else, you realize it deep down, but you don’t want to admit it. For me, it was like that. What about you?”
“I pretty much always knew I was gay,” Jared says with a quirk of his lips. “Like, from when I realized what my dick was for, you know, it was always boys for me. I can’t understand what it’s like to be attracted to a woman. It’s just never happened to me.”
“So you’ve never been with a woman?”
“Not even a kiss,” he says with a forced chuckle. “I guess in some people’s eyes that makes me a virgin.”
Mark laughs, drains the rest of his glass. He picks up the bottle, does a double-take when he realizes it’s empty. “Huh,” he says, blinking, shaking the bottle in his hand. “So that happened.”
Jared laughs, Mark looks up, grins at him. He’s got a nice smile, good teeth. “You want another drink?” he says.
“I wouldn’t say no to an Irish coffee,” Jared says, because what the hell, he’s having a good time. Jensen’s probably doing something with Jeff Morgan anyway. He watches Mark summon the waiter. He’s got the same kind of easy assurance as Jensen, the sort that waiters and doormen and bartenders immediately respond to. Jared watches him surreptitiously, trying to decide how old the guy is. It’s hard to tell. He’s older than Jensen, maybe by about eight or nine years, and like Jensen, he’s obviously used to getting his own way.
They drink their Irish coffees and Mark asks for the check. When it arrives, Jared stretches out a hand to get it. This is a client dinner after all, and he’s got an expense account. But Mark stills him, placing his hand over Jared’s. His fingers are shorter than Jared’s, kind of stubby with blunt nails.
“No, my treat,” he says.
“But you’re the client,” Jared protests.
Mark raises an eyebrow and tightens his grip on Jared’s hand. His grip is hard. “What did I say? Tonight – no work, no shop-talk. Just me, asking you, out for dinner. Ergo, my treat.”
Jared gives in, pulling his hand away. “Good boy,” Mark says.
Jared blushes and mumbles an excuse about going to the bathroom. By the time he’s come out again, Mark’s standing in the lobby holding Jared’s jacket over his arm. Jared takes it from him, saying, “Thanks. And, uh, thanks – for the dinner.”
“My pleasure,” says Mark.
They step out of the restaurant. The doorman appears, asking them if they want a cab, and Mark waves the guy away, saying they can walk. Jared watches him, tries to think how he can end the evening without pissing him off too much. He’s had plenty of experience blowing guys off, being nice and polite but firm, saying, “It’s been swell, but I don’t think this is going to work out.” He knows how to do that, but this is different. Mark’s a prospective client; he represents millions of dollars in potential revenue. Jensen would know how to end it tonight and still keep Mark on their good side. Sure, Jared’s had a nice time, but he wants the evening to be over now. He wants to head back to his hotel and crash. He misses Jensen and Jonah.
They start walking in the direction of Jared’s hotel. Taxis swish past, people brush past. It’s busy, New York is always busy. It’s one of the things Jared likes so much about it. Back before Jensen, before his internship at Providence, New York was always his dream – and Agnes’s too. She wanted him to be a famous artist in New York, for her to come and stay with him in his downtown loft apartment and hang out at all the best night spots, mix with what she called her kind of people. He remembers when he told her he and Jensen and Jonah were moving to New York, that they were finally going to open an office in Manhattan. And okay so he wasn’t going to get that downtown loft apartment they’d always talked about, but a house in Ossining was pretty special and much better for Jonah anyway. She wasn’t happy for him. She told him that he was compromising his dream. Once again, he was letting Jensen get what he wanted, letting Jensen use him and walk all over him.
He pushes the thoughts away. He can’t think about Agnes now. He hates the way she can creep into his head at the worst possible times. He has to think about ways of giving his excuses, of saying, “I’ve had a great time and you’re a great guy, but...”
Instead Mark stops, puts a hand on Jared’s jacket sleeve. “So,” he says. He steps in closer. “I know you’re married, but I’ve done my research. Jensen, I’ve heard what people say about him? About the two of you. You have an open marriage, right?”
A knot in his belly tightens. He knows Jensen’s reputation too fucking well. The Dallas gay scene wasn’t that big and he was always running into Jensen’s one-night stands when they lived there. It galled him back then, though he always pretended like he was okay with it. Those first few years of them “together”, Jensen was always firm that their relationship was open. Jensen wasn’t prepared for monogamy; there were too many things he didn’t want to give up, things like casual sex and Jeff Morgan. Besides, Jensen used to say, Jared was young and hot, it was wrong for him to be tied down at his age, he should go out there and experience everything and everybody.
Jared glances at Mark. He’s already trying to imagine what the guy would be like in bed. He’s a top, that much is obvious, and Jared’s cool with that, he prefers to bottom anyway. Mark would be intense and focused in bed, maybe overcompensating, maybe even a little bit kinky. He’s got that look. Jared can’t deny that there’s a part of him that’s tempted, despite himself. Deep down in his gut, and much lower than that, in his one-track mind cock, he’s tempted alright. It’s been a long time. And Jensen, well… Jensen was with Jeff Morgan most of last night and Jared’s got zero idea what Jensen’s doing right now, he hasn’t even bothered returning any of his calls. He wouldn’t put it past Morgan to demand Jensen’s company again.
And who the hell knows what’s even going on in their marriage these days? He loves Jensen more than anyone, but he can’t live without sex. He’s a sexual person, he loves sex, and they always had such amazing sex. He misses sex with Jensen so fucking much. But Jensen… will Jensen ever even get hard again? He’s certainly not doing anything about it. If he were in Jensen’s position, he’d have gone to the doctor ages ago. He would’ve gotten hold of some freaking Viagra or a dick-pump or whatever the hell it took, because he fucking loves sex with Jensen, and obviously the fact that Jensen hasn’t done any of that must mean that he doesn’t value their sex life as much as Jared does.
Mark’s eyes glitter as he watches him, there’s a slight flush to his cheeks that wasn’t there before. He smells of alcohol and a musky-spicy type of cologne. His hand slides up Jared’s arm, comes to rest on his shoulder.
“You got to know that I’ve been thinking about this ever since I first saw you,” he says. “You have no idea how sexy you are.”
Jared flushes with pleasure and embarrassment. It feels nice to be complimented like this, to have someone intelligent and charismatic appreciate him like this. He licks his lips, feels Mark’s gaze fall to his mouth.
“We had a good time, I had a good time. You’re great company. We should go back to my place,” Mark says. His grip tightens on Jared’s shoulder. Jared swallows, and closes his eyes momentarily, feeling Mark step in even closer. Mark’s shorter than him, just like Jensen.
He steps back, Mark’s hand falls away. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I, uh. I can’t, I just.”
He sees Mark’s lips thin and press together, he looks annoyed. Jared waits for him to speak, swallowing nervously. They’re going to lose the account now, and it’ll be all his fault.
“Sorry,” he repeats.
Mark grimaces. “No, that’s okay. I get it. You’re married. So, you don’t have an open relationship then, you and Jensen?”
He represses the urge to grit his teeth at the question. “No, we don’t,” he says.
However bad things are between him and Jensen, he’s not going to cheat. The realization makes him feel better; his mind suddenly clear, all doubts removed. He’s not going to cheat, even if he’s attracted to Mark, even if Mark’s a potentially valuable client, even if he’s flattered by the interest, even if he’s really damn horny. He’s not going to cheat on Jensen. Not just because he loves Jensen, not just because they have a kid together, but because he just can’t. It’s not the kind of person he is. He made a commitment to Jensen and he still believes in what he said the day they got married, forsaking all others… He meant it back then. He still means it.
Mark sighs and steps backwards, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Okay. Then I guess we’ll see each other on Wednesday?”
“I guess so,” Jared says. “Thanks again, for the dinner. I had a really good time.”
Mark nods; his mouth flattens into a sardonic shape. He turns to go, raising his hand in the air as he walks away, heels ringing out loudly on the sidewalk.
Jared exhales in relief and turns in the direction of his hotel.
He calls Jensen as soon as he gets back to his hotel room. Jensen picks up on the second ring.
“So, I had dinner with Mark Pellegrino,” he says by way of hello. “He – uh – he tried to kiss me. I had to turn him down.”
There’s a pause and he thinks for a moment that Jensen’s hung up, accidently, or on purpose.
“Jensen? Are you there?”
Jensen lets out a breath, it sounds sort of wheezy, and Jared realizes that he’s laughing, the asshole’s actually laughing at him.
“Dude, this isn’t funny,” he says, but he can feel the tension lifting from his hunched shoulders. Despite the fact he knows he did the right thing (the only thing he could do), he’s worried. He doesn’t want them to lose accounts, and he definitely doesn’t want to be the reason for them losing accounts. He picks up a pillow, tosses it across the room, it hits the opposite wall, just below the Rothko print, and slides to the floor. On the phone, Jensen’s still snickering and it’s fucking annoying.
He bounds off the bed. “I probably lost us the account,” he snaps. He kicks the pillow, watches it skid into the bathroom, coming to a rest by the bathtub.
Predictably Jensen sobers up at that. “Oh, you think it was that bad?”
“I don’t know! He just – he leans in for a kiss with his hand on my shoulder and his breath all in my face, and I kinda back away and say sorry, no, I can’t. I rejected him, Jensen. He’ll probably want to take revenge.”
“Dude, you are way too dramatic. I blame your mom for that.”
Jared rolls his eyes. “Of course you do, but—“
“Look,” Jensen cuts in, sounding all reasonable and annoying, “if you have lost us the account, then we’ll deal with it, okay? It was never a done-deal; we could’ve gone out of the running at any point. At least if they don’t go for us we’ll know it’s not because our work sucked, but because Mark Pellegrino doesn’t like being turned down – which, pathetic, much?”
“They still might not like the work,” Jared mutters.
“Well, yeah, but that’s unlikely. That new shit you sent me yesterday is great, Jare.”
“Too bad it’s never gonna be used,” he says. But he’s mollified, he’s still never gotten over feeling ridiculously happy when Jensen compliments his work. He still feels like that 20-year-old intern, yearning for the hot boss’s approval.
“You don’t know that. The guy’s a good businessman; he didn’t get that far by being petty. He’ll see our stuff, see everyone else’s, and he’ll see that we’re the best. And you never know, man, he might see you as an extra enticement. He might not give up just yet on catching you.”
“Oh God, I hope not,” Jared groans.
Jensen chuckles again and Jared can’t help smiling to himself at the sound. Jensen doesn’t laugh that often these days. “Where are you, what are you doing?” he says.
“On the bed, working. But if you think that picture sounds sexy, forget it. I got a six-year-old lying here asleep beside me.”
Jared’s smile widens. “Yeah? How is he? Was he alright today?”
“If by alright you mean more demanding than ever, then yeah, he was fine. I was fucking exhausted, but not him.” Jensen blows out a breath, says, “We went to the mall, and the water-park, and then ordered a lot of room service and watched a movie. He only dropped off an hour ago. This is the first chance I’ve had to check my email.”
“Oh my God!” Jared mock-gasps. “How did you cope?”
“Shut up,” Jensen says, but there’s no heat in it. And at least he knows now why Jensen hasn’t called him back or returned any of his messages.
He hears Jensen shuffling about, then his voice gets tinnier, more echoey, and Jared thinks that he’s probably gone into the bathroom. “So, we missed you today,” Jensen says. “You should’ve seen the people at that water-park. The blubbery bodies, ugh, Jay, I kept closing my eyes and imagining you in a tight pair of Speedos just to get through it.”
Jared rolls his eyes, but he’s pleased. “And you say I’m the drama queen.”
“Dude, no, seriously! You should’ve seen it. It was like Pillsbury Doughball land, like one of those beaches in South America where all those lardy-assed sea lions go to hang out, the ones that just lie there and squawk and eat and eat, ‘cause they’re too goddamn fat to move around. It was fucking depressing. Not one goddamn DILF in the entire park.”
“Except you. I bet you were worth looking at.”
“Except me of course,” Jensen says, and Jared can hear the smile in his voice.
“So, you’re still planning on flying back tomorrow night?” he asks after a pause.
“Of course. You going to pick us up?”
“Good,” Jensen sighs. “I’m telling you, man, I’ll be so happy to get on that plane. I forgot how little I miss this place.” He sounds wistful and Jared huffs out a breath, nodding in agreement. He understands what Jensen means; he’s felt the same way every time they’ve gone back to Dallas. It’s still the place where he’s lived the longest, but it’s never felt like home to him. He always felt like the outsider next to the Dallas natives like Jensen or Addie or Chad. Of course, he would never give up the years he spent there; they were some of the best years of his life. Dallas was where he met Jensen after all, where Jonah was born, where he met Chad during their crazy freshman year, where he met Addie and Carmela and Stefan and the rest of their friends. But it’s also the place where they died, where someone was hateful and twisted enough to kill a bunch of people just because of who they like to fuck. He knows it’s irrational but he’s never going to forgive Dallas for that.
“Are you going to the Memorial tomorrow?” he says after a moment’s silence.
Jensen sighs heavily down the phone, the breathy sound reverberating through the connection. Jared pictures him in the bathroom, knowing his posture from the tone in his voice: head bowed, fingers in a death grip around his phone. Jensen can’t deal with the Memorial, or those memories. He barely talks about what happened, though Jared knows he thinks about it all the time. He knows Jensen thinks about Addie when he looks at Jonah, thinks about Stefan when he panics about the business. In many ways, Addie and Stefan are just as real now as they were when they were alive, throwing their shadows over everything, and Jensen can’t let them go. He’s not sure Jensen will ever be able to let them go.
When Jensen speaks, his voice is harsh, his tone all vitriol: “I hate the place, I fucking hate it there.”
“I know,” he says softly. “I know, baby.” He wants to be there now, to touch Jensen and pull him in close and run his fingers though his hair and down his back. It doesn’t even have to be sexual; he just wants to touch Jensen again.
Jensen pushes out a breath, a long, drawn-out sound. “I should go. Check on the kid.”
“Alright,” Jared says. “I’ll see you tomorrow okay? I’ll be the tall guy standing by Arrivals, grinning like an idiot.”
Jensen laughs, though it’s a little shaky now. “Okay, see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, see you.”
He listens to Jensen hang up before he lowers his phone.
Jensen goes back into the bedroom to check on Jonah when he’s done speaking to Jared. Jonah’s asleep, looking small and vulnerable in the king-size bed. Jensen stands over him for a few beats, listening to him breathing, watching his eyelashes twitch and his chest rise up and down. He’s spent enough time keeping vigil at Jonah’s bedside to know when he’s having a bad dream or one of his episodes, so he knows that everything’s okay for the moment.
He drags his hand across the back of his neck and through his hair. He feels tense and exhausted and grubby. Come to think of it, he hasn’t had chance to shower since the water park, and the standard of hygiene in that place was worse than a freaking bathhouse. He grimaces and heads back into the bathroom.
He braces himself against the tile in the power-shower and lets his shoulders and back muscles relax under the hammering pressure of the spray. It feels good, a soporific, warm sensation flowing through his tired body. He drags his fingers lightly over his chest and belly, tracing lazy figures of eight on his skin, fingers skimming just below his belly button but just above his pubic hair. He deliberately ignores his soft cock for the moment, instead he slides his hand down to cup his balls, rolling and fondling them between his fingers, reaching between his thighs to gently stroke his perineum.
He closes his eyes and lets his mind wonder, his thoughts going automatically to Jared. He thinks about Jared’s long, long legs and powerful thighs, the dark, furry hair on the insides of his thighs, the wiry, short hair on his balls. Jensen’s never been a fan of the waxed look, always liked his guys to look like guys, not like underage pornstars, not that Jared couldn’t give some of those pornstars a run for their money, he’s definitely got the body and the proportions for it. Jensen smirks to himself and gently squeezes his balls, picturing Jared’s big, thick cock. He thinks about how it looks when it’s erect, smeared and shiny with pre-come, fucking huge and gorgeous, to how even just the head can fill Jensen’s mouth and make him feel like he’s choking on it.
Jensen groans and daringly slides his hand to his half-hard cock. He grips it, feeling it pulse in his hand. Heartened, he lets out a moan and thinks about one of his favorite memories: Jared on that vacation they took years ago in Miami. Jared on the beach in his tight swim trunks, his hair sopping wet and clinging to his face, the besotted, coy look in his eyes as he peered up at Jensen from under long, glistening eyelashes. He thinks about how Jared got sunburn on his nose, how his cheeks were rosy, his legs and arms and chest a delicious even tan. They kissed among the waves like they were in a Chris Isaak video. Droplets of seawater rolled down Jared’s chest when he reached for Jensen, snagging his long fingers in the waistband of Jensen’s trunks. Jared smiled at him and cupped his face in his fucking huge hands and kissed him in front of everybody, as the hot gay boys swam and shouted and tossed beach balls and volleyballs, catcalling at them in Spanish and English. He thinks about how he fucked Jared in the enormous bed in their enormous suite that night, how Jared threw his head back and begged him for it harder, faster, more, Jensen, need you, need more…
Jensen gasps, concentrates on the memory, on the sensation of his own cock – right now – thick in his hand. He’s hard, he’s actually fucking hard. God, he wants to cry, he wants to laugh, and he’s so goddamn terrified it’s going to disappear on him again. He closes his eyes again, thinks about his chest plastered to Jared’s back with sweat, his hand on Jared’s cock. His own cock pulses in his fist and he jacks it quickly, panting now, heart throbbing. He thinks of his face buried in Jared’s neck, his cock buried in Jared’s ass. Fuck, Jared was hot back then, still hot now, so fucking hot, and he’s all Jensen’s. He turned down Mark fucking Pellegrino because he’s Jensen’s husband, and Jensen loves him so damn much for that.
He cries out, quickly stifling the sound against his forearm, biting down, as his cock spurts into his hand. He can feel it in every pore of his body, the awesome yet painful sensation of release. He pants, shakes, opens his eyes. There’s come in his pubes, come circling the drain, his cock twitches feebly, riding out the orgasm. He shudders, straightens up, angling himself so the water pounds against his belly and balls, washing away his release.
He can still do it, he can still come. It’s such a goddamn relief. It’s been over three weeks since the last time he had an orgasm, and he feels exhausted. But he’s so damn relieved. He wishes suddenly that Jared were here, right here, beside him. Jared’s always giddy after sex, giggly and overly affectionate. It’s annoying but also endearing. He’s picturing the big goofy grin that would be on Jared’s face right now, how he’d be crowding into him and thrusting his tongue into Jensen’s mouth, insisting on the two of them standing here making out instead of cleaning up straight away.
Jensen smiles to himself. He feels good, tired, but in a good way. He switches off the water, climbs out of the shower. He shrugs on the complimentary robe and goes back into the bedroom. Jonah’s still fast asleep in bed; he hasn’t moved, which is good. Jensen leans over him, gently cards his fingers through his soft hair before pressing a kiss to his warm forehead. He turns to pick up his laptop and carry it over to the desk in the corner. He’s got work to do before he can go to sleep. But he’s feeling better than he has in a while, and he’s looking forward to flying back home tomorrow.
On to Chapter Three