On Sunday morning, Jared wakes early. He checks out of the hotel without bothering to shower first, catches an early train, and he’s home before 8am. Henry comes bounding to meet him, jumping up at him and pressing his dirty paws against Jared’s best jeans. Jared shoos him away and goes upstairs to shower.
He feels restless after the shower. Jensen and Jonah won’t be back for hours. He’s picking them up from the airport late tonight. He’s got an entire day to himself. It’s a rarity and he’s not sure what to do with himself. He heads downstairs to make coffee and toast. Rebecca, their housekeeper, is vacuuming the living room, and she’s put the sketches he made of Jensen and Jonah on the kitchen table. He sits at the table, munching his toast and drinking his coffee, and flicks through them. It’s been a while since he last really drew or painted anything. He’s barely used the studio room they had kitted out in the attic for him.
He lingers over the first sketch, the one of Jensen and Jonah at the airport, walking away from him, Jonah looking over his shoulder and waving goodbye. He can visualize the colors he’ll need, the nighttime glare of the over-lit, over-bright airport terminal. It could be a Edward Hopper style tribute: Jensen and Jonah as two lonely figures heading out on their big adventure. The thought galvanizes him, and he gets up from the table, snatching up the pile of sketches.
He paints for over three hours before Rebecca knocks on the door and says she’s done for the day. He calls out his thanks and goes back to work. By the time he does take a break, his stomach is rumbling with hunger. He’s been painting for over five hours, and it’s really starting to look like something special. He covers it up and goes downstairs to eat. He takes Henry out with him on a long run after dinner. He thinks about the painting as he runs. He hasn’t felt this inspired for a really long time, not since they moved here, not since what happened in Dallas, and definitely not since Jensen asked him to take over Stefan’s job.
He gets to the airport early. He tells himself it’s because there’s nothing worse than hanging around at an airport, wondering if your ride’s ever going to arrive, or if you gave them the wrong flight time, the wrong terminal, the wrong freaking day. He used to be always hanging around waiting for Agnes to show when he was a kid and it drove him crazy. Even so, he’s two hours early by the time he gets there.
He buys a paper, reads it, drinks two lattes, goes to the bathroom, then sits on a bench and uses a discarded biro to sketch on the back of someone’s torn-up boarding pass. He’s drawing Jensen again, the line of his profile, the slope of his nose and curve of his cheekbone, the fleshy, flowery shape of his ear. He shoves the picture into his back pocket when he’s done and gets up to walk around the terminal to stretch his legs.
He’s the first in line at the arrivals gate for the flight from DFW. Jensen and Jonah are almost the first people through the gate, which is typical of Jensen, he can’t stand hanging around. Jonah grins delightedly when he spots Jared and runs towards him. Jared scoops him up, and Jonah laughs and winds his legs around Jared’s middle as they spin on the spot. He plants a smacking kiss on Jonah’s cheek before he sets him down again. Jonah makes a face at him, wiping his cheek, and then thrusts a suitcase at him that wasn’t there when they left, insisting that he has to take it, it’s really heavy and it’s all his new toys.
Jared raises an eyebrow at Jensen who shakes his hand and says, “It was my sister’s fault. Don’t ask.” And then Jensen’s grinning at him and pulling him into a hug. Jared clings onto him, buries his face into the collar of Jensen’s leather jacket, rubs his nose against his stubble and breathes him in.
Jared pulls back and his face is aching from smiling so hard. “Missed you,” he says, and to his surprise, Jensen smiles back at him, cups his cheek and says, “Yeah, me too.”
Jensen takes the suitcases upstairs to unpack when they get back, leaving Jared to get Jonah to bed. There’s only time for one chapter tonight, and Jonah’s eyes are already half-closed by the time Jared closes the book.
“Night, Momma, night, Carmela,” Jonah whispers, brushing his fingers over the photograph. He settles back into his pillow and looks up at Jared, big green eyes dark in the light. “Night, Daddy,” he says. “It’s nice to be home again.”
Jared blinks, feeling his heart swell with emotion. He brushes the hair back from Jonah’s forehead, and leans down to kiss him. “Night, buddy.”
He walks into the bedroom feeling a little giddy. Jensen’s sacked out on the bed, half-watching the TV. He rolls his head Jared’s way as he comes in, blinks at him lazily. “Heyyy,” Jensen says.
“So, I think I might’ve imagined it, but Jonah just called me Daddy. Do you know what’s up with that?”
Jensen blinks again, the corner of his mouth twists. “So he said that, huh?”
“He did.” He plops down onto the mattress beside Jensen, and pats his thigh a couple of times..
Jensen exhales sleepily and shifts closer. “He says he wants to start calling you Dad.”
“Why? Why now? Not that I’m against it, but.” He trails off, fans his fingers over Jensen’s thigh, thumb brushing over the inner seam of his jeans.
“He says it’s not fair if you just get called Jared, because you should have a special other name too, like I have. It makes sense to him.”
Jared nods again, fighting a grin. The idea of Jonah calling him Dad. It’s just. He didn’t expect it, but it’s good. He really likes it.
“Dude, you are okay with this, right?” Jensen says.
“What? Um, yeah, yeah, of course.” He digs his fingers into the muscle of Jensen’s thigh, feels Jensen push back into the touch.
“C’mere,” Jensen says, and he’s sitting up and leaning over, cupping Jared’s cheek and guiding him into a kiss. The first kiss is soft, the second much less soft, and then Jensen’s kissing him passionately and Jared’s heart is thumping in his chest. It’s been a really fucking long time. He can’t remember the last time he and Jensen did this. They used to do this a lot; it was one of his favorite things about being with Jensen: how he kissed like his soul was in his mouth and he wanted to share it with Jared.
Jensen pulls away; his mouth is wet and hot and shiny with spit. “Jay. I'm not sure that this--" he breaks off, makes a frustrated noise, and Jared can actually see the disappointment and embarrassment in his eyes. Jared's own cock is hard; it got hard as soon as Jensen started to kiss him, reacting to Jensen’s proximity as it always has. But Jensen’s not hard, there’s no matching bulge in his jeans.
“Okay, it’s okay,” he says. He cups the back of Jensen’s neck. “We can still do this. I still want to kiss you.”
“I can’t fuck you.”
“I don’t care. I can just jerk off in front of you. As long as you kiss me for a while first.”
Jensen blinks, licks his lips, then the corner of his mouth curls, that wicked little grin. “That could work,” he says.
“Yeah, c’mere,” Jared says. He’s grinning again, feeling the pull in his facial muscles as he cradles Jensen’s head and plants kisses around his mouth. He crowds Jensen back and into the bed, pushing his hands under his shirt in his hunt for bare skin. He wants Jensen naked, wants to see him, though he’s not sure Jensen will allow it, his conspicuously soft cock bared to the elements. But topless would work, topless definitely works. Jensen has a gorgeous back, and his front isn’t so bad either.
He pulls the sweater up and over Jensen’s head, mussing his hair. He dives in to kiss his neck, lick over the tendons in his throat, feeling him shiver under the onslaught. Jensen’s shirt is harder to deal with, all fiddly buttons, which shift and fall away under Jared’s eager fingers, and Jensen laughs at him, batting his hands away and saying, “Let me do it, you great dork, big frickin’ man-paws everywhere.” Jared laughs and crowds up against Jensen’s back, pressing his mouth to the nape of Jensen's neck.
Jensen’s hands shake as he works the buttons open and pushes the shirt off, wrists tangling for a moment in the narrow cuffs. And then it’s off, and Jensen’s half-naked, his bare back pressed to Jared’s front. Jared pulls him closer, skims his hand down Jensen’s front, over his chest and belly, a little softer now than it used to be which is endearing and really hot. He ignores Jensen’s cock, ignores the lack of a bulge in his pants, just concentrates on making Jensen feel good and relaxed, on kissing around his neck and across his jaw, licking over his chin, tongue catching on the stubble. Jensen laughs again and tries to get away, but Jared has him held fast.
“Mmm, no, not going anywhere,” he says, “I’ve been missing this, been missing you. Don’t care if you can’t fuck me, just wanna touch you.”
Jensen stops protesting, and Jared shifts away from him. He pulls off his own clothes, tosses them to the floor in a heedless pile until he’s naked, hand fisted around his cock.
“Go on, show me,” Jensen says, sounding more like himself, confident and a little cocky. He leans back against the headboard to watch Jared, eyes raking over his body in that predatory, challenging way that Jared loves. He starts to fist his cock, making a show of it, playing with the purple, fat head and rolling his heavy, aching balls between his fingers.
Jensen licks his lips and watches, the color high in his cheeks, his eyes all pupils. Jared’s gotten used to just his own hand over the past few weeks, but this feels so much better than his usual five minutes in the shower. Jensen’s watching and enjoying, he’s flushed and hot with it, and Jared can see Jensen’s hand slide down to his crotch, his palm over his fly.
“Are you—is it—“ he murmurs
“Keep going,” Jensen breathes out, and Jared does, concentrating on his own pleasure. He adds in that little twist of his wrist that he loves. He kneels up so he can slide his hand between his legs to stroke his perineum and tease his ass. His pulse jumps, breath hitches, and he hears Jensen make a noise. He flicks him a glance and sees that Jensen’s got his fly open, his cock hidden by his hand, but it’s not entirely soft anymore, it can’t be if he’s holding it like that.
The sight makes Jared’s cock throb and he speeds up. He brings his other hand to his mouth, licks his first two fingers, making a show of it, dragging his tongue up each digit, over the tips and down again, slicking up the knuckles. He knows that Jensen loves his hands, Jensen loves how big they are, how long his fingers are, so he takes his time getting them good and wet, showing off for Jensen, till they’re dripping and shiny with spit. He pushes his hand back between his legs, first two fingers circling his ass and then pushing inside, a smooth and fluid motion that he’s done so many times before.
“Oh, Jesus, Jay,” Jensen whispers. Jared glances at him, Jensen’s color is high and he’s got his cock fisted in his hand now. He’s still only half-hard, but it’s something. “Don’t stop,” Jensen begs.
He has no intention of stopping, he’s really close now. He can feel it building, the ache and desperate need for release making every pore in his body tingle and come alive. He jacks his cock, works his fingers in and out his ass. It’s hard to do both at the same time, but it’s not like this is new for him, and it’s not like he gives a shit just how great his technique is right now. He knows he looks needy and sloppy, but God, he’s almost there, he’s so very fucking close.
“Jensen,” he moans. “Jensen…”
“C’mon, come for me,” Jensen whispers, “c’mon, do it. So fuckin’ hot, Jared, such a hot boy… All mine, Jared, so fuckin’ gorgeous… Do it for me, show me how fuckin’ hot you are.”
He moans out loud and shoots. The come splashes warm and sticky over his hand and belly. He slides his fingers out of his ass, hearing the squelchy sound. He glances over at Jensen. Jensen’s still got his hand cupping his cock; he licks his lips, stares at Jared.
“God, whatever did I do to deserve you?” Jensen murmurs.
Jared blushes and rolls his eyes, but he’s really fucking pleased. “Shut up.”
Jensen laughs. He shuffles towards him, cups the back of his neck and pulls him into a kiss.
Jared doesn’t see Jensen the next morning, he’s up and gone by the time he wakes. There’s a note on the pillow, saying he’ll see him later, he’s got early meetings. It’s not that unusual, but Jared can’t help but feel disappointed. It felt like they really made a breakthrough last night, that some remnant of the old Jensen shone through, like they were reconnecting or some other super-gay term that Jensen would no doubt mock him for if he knew Jared were thinking it. Then again, Jensen’s been away from the office, he really does have a lot to catch up on.
Jared helps Jonah get dressed and find his reading book and homework. He insists on taking one of his new toys to school for Show and Tell. It’s a teddy bear that looks old and decrepit enough to have once belonged to Jensen, and sure enough, Jonah explains that it was Jensen’s, and that he’s going to show it to the class because it’s so totally old.
“See you later, Daddy!” he calls out when he bounds from the car and through the school gates.
Jared watches him and feels that same swelling of emotion in his chest. He’s known Jonah since he was born, and over the past almost three years he’s been helping to raise him. But he’s not Jonah’s dad, Jensen is, and Jonah is so much like Jensen sometimes that it hurts. But now, Jonah is calling him Daddy and it’s good, it feels really fucking good. He wants to hear Jonah say it over and over again.
Jensen shows up half way through Jared’s weekly team meeting. He slides into the back of the room, motions at Abby to continue when she halts in her presentation for the new Neptune Foods holiday campaign. He raises his eyebrows at Jared and settles into a chair at the back to watch.
Jared takes over when Abby’s done, to present his new ideas and concepts for the Markov pitch. He’s pretty sure that the meeting’s going to be a big fat waste of time. He blew the whole thing after he turned down Mark Pellegrino on Saturday night, but they’re professionals and they’re damn well going to do their work and present an excellent campaign. Jensen lingers after Jared dismisses the guys and comes forward to look over the boards.
“These are good, much better than what we had before,” he says.
“Too bad it’s all for nothing,” Jared says.
“We don’t know that.” Jensen puts a hand on his arm, and Jared glances at him, catching his eye. Jensen’s half-smiling, looking pleased with himself. “I went to the doctor this morning. That’s why I was gone so early.”
Jared frowns. “The doctor? Why?”
“Dude, why’d you think?” He raises his hands, does the quotey fingers thing. “For my embarrassing problem.”
“Oh.” He’s surprised. Pleasantly surprised.
“He gave me a prescription,” Jensen continues, “some special little blue pills. I’m thinking – we should try them out tonight. Drug the kid; have ourselves some medicated fun-times? Last night really got me in the mood for it.” The smirk turns into a full-on leer, the kind of look Jared hasn’t gotten from him in a long time. Probably not since he was the kid packing away the boards and fetching Stefan’s coffee, slowing down as he passed Jensen’s open office door where Jensen would be on the phone, arm thrown above his head in a decadent sprawl. Jared always slowed down enough to look through the open door and catch Jensen’s eye, seeing the unabashed leer on his face, the arched eyebrows that meant: “You’re going to be round my loft tonight with your ass in the air.”
Jared grins, he can’t help himself. He probably looks goofy as fuck, but he doesn’t care. It’s been long. Like really fucking long. Even when they were broken up, they never went this long without fucking each other. Neither of them ever really got to grips with the concept of breakup sex as a bad thing. One of them was always coming back for more every time they called it quits. Even that last sucky time, it was only two months before Jensen came knocking on his door the night that…
No, he’s not going to think about that night, he’s not going to think about anything apart from the fact that they’re going to have sex tonight. Jesus, why isn’t it night already? How many fucking hours in the day are there?
“Doofus,” Jensen mutters, but he’s smiling too, leaning in to grope Jared’s ass before he strides out of the conference room.
There are meetings to go to before he can leave. Unfortunately, they’re the kind of meetings where he has to have his head on straight. He can’t be distracted by just how hot Jensen looks during the heads meeting when he talks about streamlining and restructuring and hierarchical change and all those other euphemisms that mean firing a load of people. But it has to be done, and there are a lot of people that have been coasting these last few months. Jared looks around him at the others around the table and at those on the video screen in Dallas and wonders how many of them are going to still be here in a month’s time.
Everybody’s subdued when they leave the meeting. They all have to think about cutting budgets, about who they can live without. Jared’s got to find $1m from his departmental budget, and Lynn, his counterpart in Dallas has got to find $2m. Jensen talked about merging the two art departments, about bringing most of it under Jared’s control and having Lynn report to Jared. Jared’s not sure how he feels about that. He still doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing here, and he knows that a lot of the other heads are looking at him enviously, knowing that he’s probably the only one whose job is safe.
He sighs and collapses into his desk chair when he gets to his office. There are message slips on his desk, a pile of boards that need signing off, his voicemail light is on and he can see a couple of his guys getting up from their desks to head his way. I don’t want to be here, he thinks, I want to be at home in the studio. I want to work on the painting I started yesterday, and then work on another. I want to be at the school gate when Jonah gets out of school instead of the nanny. I want to give him his milk and cookies and help him with his homework. I want Jonah to be able to ask his friends over after school, to have them hear Jonah call me Daddy. I want to be an artist again, I want to create again. I don’t want to do this job anymore.
But Jensen needs him, and he can’t let Jensen down. He takes a long swig of cold coffee, then looks up with a welcoming smile as Garth and Jenny knock on his door and come inside.
They don’t get around to trying the pills that night. Jonah wakes up only an hour after falling asleep, screaming and crying and shaking. Jensen’s in his room directly, pulling him into his arms and rocking him while Jonah buries his head in Jensen’s shoulder and wails like he hasn’t done since he was a toddler. Jared goes downstairs to heat up some milk and feels overwhelmingly relieved that they didn’t get around to starting things properly. It would be really fucking awkward right now if Jensen had actually taken that pill.
Jonah’s calmed down some by the time Jared comes back upstairs with his hot milk. Jensen’s moved him to their room and they’re sitting on the bed. Jonah’s resting in Jensen’s lap, his cheek pressed to Jensen’s chest, fingers curled in the fabric of Jensen’s shirt. Jensen’s running his hands over Jonah’s back, talking softly to him, nonsense, soothing words that make Jonah shudder occasionally and press his face harder into Jensen’s chest, leaving snotty, teary trails. Jared climbs onto the bed beside them and watches Jonah raise his head and regard him through doleful, watery eyes. Jared smiles at him and holds out the milk which Jonah takes carefully, shifting into a sitting position to drink it.
Jensen gives him an apologetic look from over the top of Jonah’s head. Jared shrugs and runs his hand up Jonah’s skinny arm to muss his hair.
“You alright now, buddy?” he asks. “You want to sleep here with us?”
Jonah nods and Jared smiles again and leans in to drop a kiss to the top of his head. “Okay,” he says.
“I think we should see a doctor again,” Jared says, coming into the bathroom a couple of hours later. Jensen’s at the sink brushing his teeth. He’s in just his sleep pants, his face shiny with the anti-aging night-cream he uses. He frowns at Jared in the mirror, spits into the sink. “For Jonah, I mean,” Jared adds.
Jensen rinses out his mouth, pops the toothbrush into the holder. “Like father, like son, huh?” His mouth is twisted, the expression on his face self-deprecating.
“What’re you talking about?”
Jensen leans back against the sink and sighs. “I made an appointment to see a therapist this afternoon. Someone Dr Evans recommended. He’s supposed to be good, or at least that’s what Evans said.”
“Oh.” Jared’s surprised. Again. Sure, Jensen mentioned something about seeing someone after he talked to his sister, but so soon? Then again, once Jensen does decide something, he doesn’t wait around. It would make sense that he’d get that recommendation from the doctor at the same time he got the prescription for Viagra. Jensen’s not one for procrastinating.
“Viagra’s not going to work forever,” Jensen says matter-of-factly. “If it does work – which we don’t know yet. So, I figure, I got to get things fixed up here.” He taps the side of his head and makes a face. “I can’t go on like this. With you and me,” he gestures between them, “you know.”
“I know,” Jared echoes. “And I’m pleased, Jensen. This is good. I know you think therapy’s all bullshit, but we don’t know until we try.” He’s feeling unaccountably teary, emotional. “Jesus,” he mutters, bowing his head. “Fuck.”
He feels Jensen come close, place his hands on his arms and pull him into a hug. He winds his hands around Jensen’s back and holds him close, feeling Jensen run his hands up and down his back in comforting motions, just like he was doing before for Jonah. When he raises his head he feels ridiculous and really embarrassed.
“Christ, I’m sorry. Don’t know what came over me,” he mutters.
“It’s okay,” Jensen says. He’s regarding him strangely. “I’m the one who should apologize.”
Jensen makes a face, that sheepish, wry sort of a look. “I should’ve done something a long time ago. And not just about – you know—“ he gestures awkwardly towards his crotch, “--but me. That trip to Dallas, seeing the old places again, the old office, even having dinner with Jeff, going to the Memorial—“
“You went to the Memorial?” Jared interrupts, surprised.
Jensen nods. “Yeah. It sucked. Of course. I couldn’t imagine us still being there, knowing that place was there, in the same city as us. I’m so damn glad we moved out here.”
“So am I,” says Jared, and he means it. At the time, he wasn’t sure about going, but Jensen wanted to and they had Jonah to think about, and really, he would’ve been happy anyplace that Jensen was. He thought it would help too, to get away from Dallas, put some distance between them and all those places they used to hang out, all those memories of Chad and Addie and Stefan. And in some ways, it has helped, but in others…
Jensen’s got his head bowed still, one hand gripped around the edge of the sink. He lifts his head up, looking up at Jared through his eyelashes, and Jared’s struck suddenly by how gorgeous he is, even with all that crap on his face, even with how exhausted and weighed down he looks.
“Yeah, so I just – Jay, I want to say that I’m sorry, for putting you through so much. For.” He hesitates, like he’s trying to find the words. “Our relationship, it’s never been easy, and that’s on me, I know that’s all on me. You always knew what you wanted, and you were never scared of going after it. I always admired that about you.”
“I wanted you,” Jared says honestly. “Just you. However I could get you.” That’s true, too. It’s the one thing Chad could never get about him and Jensen. He’ll never want you the same way, Jay. Stone-cold bitches like him aren’t capable of it. But Chad never knew Jensen like he did, he didn’t see Jensen with Jonah or his sister, he didn’t know how loyal Jensen was to his friends, and he didn’t know what Jensen was like when it was just the two of them.
Jensen smiles sadly. “Yeah, I know. I should’ve realized before.”
“But none of that matters now, man,” Jared insists. “We’re a family now, the three of us. We’ll be alright. We’ll get through this. And you’ll be okay. The therapy will help, I know it will. We’ll work it out.” He leans down, presses a kiss to Jensen’s bare shoulder. He meets Jensen’s eyes in the mirror, says, “I’m proud of you. I love you. Always. Never gonna change.”
Tuesday night is also a bust. Jensen’s got a client dinner and a breakfast meeting the next day and he’s spending the night in the city. They’re both potential new accounts, so they’re not things he can skip. Jared tries not to resent it, but Jensen’s only been back two days and he misses him. He feels good about things though, the conversation last night – it’s more than Jensen’s said in a long, long time, and now he’s willingly going to try therapy. It’s a big change-around from the Jensen back in Dallas who never understood why Jared wanted to go to the group counseling sessions or talk to anyone about what happened to their friends, saying that therapy was bullshit, just a way to con grieving people out of their money.
But therapy helped him back then. Sure, he’s never going to stop feeling guilty for Chad being at the Center that night, but just being able to say that out loud, when he was so used to bottling it up and putting on a front for Jensen’s and Jonah’s sakes, was such a damn relief. Jensen’s never let himself have that. Jensen’s kept it all wound up tight inside and barely spoken about it. It’s weirdly appropriate that it’s taken this – Jensen’s sexual performance issues – to finally get him to open up about everything. After all, Jensen’s always said that his dick was behind every important life decision he ever made.
He works in Jensen’s home office, putting together his new budget proposal, speaking to Lynn in Dallas until after 10pm to finalize their list of who’s going, who’s staying and who’s moving where. He drops his head into his hands when they’re done. He doesn’t want to be doing this. His mom is right about one thing: he’s not cut out for Jensen’s world. He’s been faking it for the past three years, but he’s not sure he can keep doing it. Even for Jensen.
He sighs and raises his head, his eyes catching on the five photographs ranged across Jensen’s enormous desk. Jensen and Stefan from years ago on some college road trip; Addie and newborn baby Jonah, taken at the same time as the one on Jonah’s nightstand; Jonah’s school picture from last year; the wedding picture of him and Jensen looking uncomfortable and nervous in their complimenting designer tuxes; and one of just him taken on vacation in Miami about five years ago. He’s sitting on the balcony of their suite at the hotel in that picture, he's in profile, looking off into the distance, at the sunset. He’s grinning, his eyes shining and he looks so happy and so young. He can remember how crazy he was for Jensen back then, how they couldn’t keep their hands off each other the whole time they were there. He can remember thinking that that was the highpoint in his life, that things could never be this perfect again.
He doesn’t do any more work that night. Instead, he heads upstairs with his sketchpad. He sits in the armchair in the corner of Jonah’s room and sketches him by the soft pink glow of the nightlight.
Wednesday is the day of the Markov pitch.
Mark Pellegrino shows up with two other people, a woman and a man who introduce themselves as the VPs for Marketing and Distribution, respectively. Apart from Jared and Jensen, Tom who’s in charge of online, and Phil, their top account man, also sit in on the meeting. Jared puts on his most professional, most calm and most unruffled look as Mark and his team step out of the elevator. Certainly, Mark looks professional and unruffled. He shakes hands all around, no extra lingering looks or touches when he takes Jared’s hand, as if they’re meeting for the first time. They all sit down in their nicest conference room, coffee and bottled water gets served, and Jensen starts talking through their campaign.
Jensen’s really fucking good at what he does. It’s something that shouldn’t surprise Jared anymore; he’s seen Jensen at work plenty of times before. He’s attended client dinners as Jensen’s plus one with their more open-minded clients, or as the Art Director with others. He’s sat in on enough pitches to know just how convincing and assured Jensen can be. But today, today, Jensen is really smashing it. Jensen is pushing the campaign like it’s the next We Try Harder.
After Jensen finishes, the room is silent, everyone staring at the boards like they’re seeing them anew. The hairs on Jared’s arms are tingling, his pulse quick. He looks across the conference table at Jensen; Jensen’s eyes are alight, his color high. Their eyes catch, and Jared feels the breath catch in his throat, a flair of heat in his gut. He swallows and looks away. Under the table, his legs are trembling.
The Marketing VP is the first to recover. She clears her throat, says, “Well, I’m not sure what to say. That was—“
“Extraordinary,” Mark cuts in. “And the work is… Good. More than good. But I imagine I don’t have to tell you that.” He addresses the remarks to Jensen, not bothering with anyone else around the table.
Jensen holds Mark’s gaze. “It was all Jared’s idea. You should be congratulating him.”
“Really?” Mark says, and Jared can feel Mark’s eyes on him briefly, before he returns his attention back to Jensen. “You’re very lucky to have someone so talented on your team.”
“Yeah, I am,” Jensen says and there’s a pointed, sharkish quality to his tone that makes Jared’s ears prick up and the heat pool and roil in his gut.
Mark still has eyes only for Jensen. There’s a slight smile playing at the corner of his mouth, and Jensen’s looking back at him in a way that’s his usual mix of nonchalance and self-assuredness, but with this note of something underneath, something Jared can best describe as dangerous. The atmosphere is tense; the two VP’s from Markov are looking between Jensen and their boss like they’re not sure what to think. On Jared’s side of the table, Tom and Phil also look lost. Everyone seems to be holding their breath.
Slowly, the corners of Jensen’s mouth curl upwards, his expression shifts, going bland and accommodating. His smile gets warmer, less pointed as he looks away from Mark and at the other two Markov execs. “So, you guys ready to hear about how we’re thinking of playing this? Which markets we’re thinking of hitting?”
Mark sits back in his chair, waves his hand. “By all means.” The tension seems to have lifted, everybody breathing evenly again. The VP’s crack tentative smiles as Tom gets to his feet to deliver his part of the pitch.
Jared feels physically exhausted by the time the meeting’s done. He stays behind while Jensen and Phil walk Mark and his team to the elevators. He’s still gathering up the boards when Jensen returns, the conference room door snicking closed behind him. He turns to see Jensen standing there and watching him with a grin that manages to be both smug and evil.
“So you enjoyed that, huh?” Jared says.
“Dude, tell me you did too.”
“Not sure if enjoy is the right word.”
“They were over it like white on rice,” he says, coming towards Jared. He cups the back of Jared’s neck, tugs him down into a kiss. It’s brief, hard. “Shit, Jare, you’re so damn smart. And hot.” Jensen smiles at him and presses his thumb to the corner of Jared’s mouth and drags it against his lower lip. Jared breathes in and out for a couple of beats, following Jensen’s dark-lidded gaze, then he grabs onto Jensen, spins him and pushes him back against the conference table. He doesn’t use his physical strength on Jensen very often. Jensen prefers to be the one in control, he’s a toppy bastard most of the times, but sometimes, sometimes… Jensen moans and his fingers sink into Jared’s biceps through the fabric of his suit jacket. His legs spread and Jared’s knee slides between them, his erection grinding up against Jensen’s belly.
They can’t do it here though, not in the freaking conference room, in the middle of the day. Jared presses one last kiss to Jensen’s mouth and takes a step back. Jensen’s pupils are dilated, his mouth looking pummeled.
“You know if he does sign with us, then every meeting we have with them can’t just finish up in a pissing contest,” Jared says.
Jensen shrugs, glances up at him from under his eyelashes. “Then he needs to know to keep his damn hands off what’s mine.”
Jared rolls his eyes, but he can’t help the spark of arousal in his gut at Jensen’s tone. He’s not used to Jensen being territorial or possessive. In the old days he would’ve given anything to be able to make Jensen jealous, but Jensen was infuriatingly indifferent to whoever Jared danced with or kissed or even fucked. Jensen used to say that gay men weren’t built to be exclusive. Fucking around was far more natural and definitely less hypercritical, because everybody cheated in the end. He used to insist that Jared was far too young and attractive to be tied down to just one guy, saying that Jared should go out and experience everything he could, because if he didn’t, he’d just regret it later. Jensen never honestly believed that all Jared wanted was him.
“You’re an idiot,” he says fondly.
Jensen grins at him and slaps him on the ass on his way out the room. “Ten bucks says he’ll be signing by the end of the day.”
“I’m not gonna take that bet!” he calls after him.
“It says you’re supposed to take it an hour or so before you want to see results. So, I guess you take it now and we hang out, or I don’t know, make out for a while? Like, to get you in the mood? It’s up to you, man, how’d you want to do this?”
Jensen looks up from where he’s unbuttoning his shirt. Jared’s standing on the other side of the bed, already stripped down to his boxer briefs. He’s holding Jensen’s prescription bottle in one of his enormous hands, frowning down at the label as he speaks.
Jensen hesitates, licking his lips. He’s feeling kind of nervous, if truth be told. He’s just as uncertain as Jared on how this is supposed to work. Well, he knows how it’s supposed to work. He’s read up on stuff and he has taken it before, but God, last time was just dumb experimentation, now it really matters. And he’s actually really fucking nervous. He’s not used to feeling like this.
“God, Jay, I don’t know,” he says.
Jared places the bottle of pills back onto the nightstand and turns to look up at him; his hair’s in his eyes and he’s biting his lip, with a look on his face that is so completely Jared that Jensen immediately feels better. After all, this is just Jared, Jared and him together. Jared’s not going to stand there and judge him and find him wanting. Jared’s not that person. And Jared loves him, he knows that. He just – shit – he really doesn’t want to let Jared down.
“Take off your pants and shirt,” Jared says. He climbs onto the bed on his knees and looks at him expectantly.
He huffs out a breath, slides his belt out of his belt loops and unzips his fly. He folds his pants carefully over a chair and peels off his socks. He shrugs off his shirt and places it on the chair.
“You keeping me waiting on purpose?” Jared says, quirking up his eyebrows. He grins, holds out his hand and waggles his fingers. “C’mere.”
Jensen kneels on the bed. He lets Jared pull him in, savoring the closeness of Jared’s body, Jared’s warm bare skin against his. Jared holds him close, kisses the side of his face, rubs their bristly cheeks together. “Hey, listen, if you don’t want to do it now, then we don’t have to. In fact, I think it might be a better idea if we wait.”
Jensen draws back, looks at Jared. He can see the bottle of pills looming in his peripheral vision. He wants to do it, take the pill, get a woody (hopefully), fuck Jared. God, he really wants to fuck Jared. But if it doesn’t work? What then?
“What do you mean?” he says.
“I think you should speak to the therapist first,” Jared says.
Jensen blinks at him. “Why?”
Jared shifts around until he’s sitting cross legged on the bed, long bony feet poking into the thick duvet. He shrugs, pushes his hair back off his face. “I think you should speak to the therapist, like, an expert before we just plunge into this.” He pauses, smirks a little, pushing his tongue into his cheek. “So to speak.” Jensen rolls his eyes at him but Jared shrugs, says, “I’m trying to be all practical here, man. I think you need to,” he hesitates again, searching for the right words, “figure things out first. We don’t want to just jump into it and, you know. If it doesn’t work, if we don’t manage anything tonight, then you’re going to be all disappointed and depressed tomorrow, and that will affect anything you say to the doctor. I think, maybe, you need to get your head straight first. I’m sorry if you really wanted to do this tonight, but I just think this is the best way.”
He’s giving me an out, Jensen thinks. He stares back at Jared, at the clear, almost pleading look in his eyes. He remembers the look on Jared’s face when he first told him he’d gotten the pills, how excited Jared was. Jared wants this; it would be fucking weird if he didn’t after almost three months of nothing, but he’s still giving him time. He knows that Jensen’s not ready and he’s giving him an excuse to back out and keep face.
Jensen opens and closes his mouth, trying to find the words. “Yeah, okay,” he says at last. He can feel the relief like a real tangible thing, making that tight, knotted feeling in his chest start to dissipate. “Yeah. Okay. You’re probably right.”
Jared’s expression brightens. He reaches for Jensen’s hand, tangles their fingers together. “Okay,” he repeats. “It’s the best way, trust me, baby.”
Jensen makes a face at the endearment, but he can’t stop the relieved smile from edging across his face. Jared’s grinning at him now anyway, peering up at him through his eyelashes in that way that makes him look even younger than his 27 years.
“But this doesn’t mean that tonight has to be a total washout,” Jensen says.
“What do you mean?”
Jensen moves quickly, snagging his hand free from Jared’s grasp and placing it on Jared’s shoulder, pushing him backwards, down into the mattress. “Go on, lie down.”
“Shut up, just do it.” He puts his other hand on Jared’s other shoulder, shoves him harder. “Or do I have to tie you down, Padalecki?”
Jared’s breath catches, the pink floods to his cheeks. His cock, already half-hard, practically springs to attention. He falls back into the bed, unfolding his legs and letting them fall flat into the comforter. Jensen leans over him, curling his thumbs into the waistband of Jared’s tented boxer briefs. He slides them down over the curve of Jared’s ass, down his long, muscled thighs and calves, over his feet. He tosses them over his shoulder, watches them float to the floor. He turns back to Jared and moves to loom over him, straddling his body on his hands and knees.
It feels good to be like this, to be the one in charge again, to see with his own eyes how much Jared wants him. And yeah, it sucks that his own stupid cock is barely hard, but he’s not thinking about that. He’s just thinking about giving Jared something back, showing Jared how much he loves him, and knowing that he’s still the only person in the entire world who can make Jared feel this good.
He licks his lips ostentatiously, gratified to see Jared’s gaze darken, his eyes following the path of his tongue. “I’m going to suck you. And you’re going to lie there like a little bitch and enjoy it. Okay?”
Jared nods eagerly and Jensen smirks, cups Jared’s cheek. “That’s my good boy.”
An hour later, they’re all cleaned up. Jared’s lying with his head on Jensen’s chest and Jensen’s playing with his hair, running his fingers through the soft, damp strands. Jared heaves out a sigh, raises his head and looks down at him.
“I need to talk to you about something,” he says.
Jensen’s feels his heart skip a beat. Good conversations never start like this. “Oh. Sounds serious,” he says, trying to keep his voice steady.
Jared nods. He pulls out of the embrace, and sits up. Jensen watches him, he can’t see much in the dark room, just the shadows and planes of Jared’s face and chest, the dark mess of his hair and glint of his teeth as he bites his lip. Jared doesn’t say anything straight away and Jensen’s stomach starts to churn nervously. He sits up, too, because whatever this is about he can tell it’s not one of those conversations he feels comfortable having lying down.
At last Jared sighs, says, “Jensen, I, uh. I want to leave the company. I think, with all the changes and the restructuring, that now’s a good time for me to go. Lynn can run both Art Departments, she’s more than capable.”
“You. What?” Jensen says. He blinks, stares at Jared, trying to take it in. He’s surprised, he really wasn’t expecting this. But he’s also relieved. He doesn’t know what he was expecting, but he’s overwhelmingly relieved that Jared’s not leaving him, though really, he should’ve known it wouldn’t be that. Jared’s had plenty of good reasons to leave him before now and he’s never managed to stay gone for good.
But Jared wants to leave the company? Leave Providence? Jared’s a huge part of Providence, he’s the Art Director, hell, with Stef gone, he’s more than that to Jensen. He’s one of only a handful of people who genuinely care about the future of the company, one of the few people Jensen can truly rely on to have his back.
Jared rolls his head against the headboard to look at him. Jensen’s eyes have adjusted to the dark, or maybe it’s getting lighter, he doesn’t know, but he can make out the anxious, pleading look in Jared’s eyes as he speaks.
“I want to be an artist again. Or freelance. I don’t know. I loved creating that campaign for Markov, I loved just being there – doing it from scratch – coming up with the idea and getting it out there. But I never do that these days, you know that. Normally, I’m running the department and signing stuff off and managing shit, and that’s – that’s not what I want to do. It’s not what I’m good at. I want to create stuff again. Last weekend, while you were away, I started painting again and it felt good. But I never get a chance to do that either.” He swallows, catching his breath.
Jensen keeps watching him; he’s not sure how to take this all in. Jared hasn’t painted much since they moved here. It’s kind of annoying actually, they spent a lot of money setting up that studio and Jared’s barely been in it. Then again, maybe Jensen should’ve encouraged him more in his art. He knows how much Jared loves painting; it’s more than a hobby for him. But Jared hasn’t been painting these last couple of years. He’s been working at Providence and coming home and working some more and looking after Jonah and walking the dog and putting up with Jensen’s crabby mood swings and just… Yeah. Maybe it is Jensen’s fault that Jared hasn’t had time to use that expensive attic studio. He should’ve noticed, he should’ve realized that Jared wasn’t happy at Providence, doing Stef’s job.
“I’m happy to still do work for you, like, freelance,” Jared continues, “and if you need me for Markov, then that’s fine, I’ll be there to work on the campaign, or charm Mark Pellegrino, or whatever. But I don’t want to spend full days in the office and I don’t want to be Art Director anymore. And I want – I want to be there for Jonah. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with things the way they are now for him because there isn’t. But I want to be the one to collect him from school, I want to spend more time with him. And we can afford it, Jensen. We’re lucky. When I was growing up, I went to every after school club there was. Dude, I was in everything: chess club and art club and baseball and track, and I friggin’ suck at baseball, you know that. But I had no choice, either I went to all those clubs or I got stuck with some weird friend of Agnes’s. And yeah, I know it was hard for her, she couldn’t afford proper daycare, but it’s not like that for us, and I want this, man. I want him to spend time with me, not the nanny. He’s my son too, don’t I get a say in that?”
Jensen swallows and nods. “Yeah, yeah, you do. Of course you do. I just.”
Jensen bites his lip, looks into Jared’s eyes. He’s still looking anxious, and Jensen wants to take that look away more than anything. “I don’t know. If that’s what you want, then I’m not going to stop you. But I don’t know what I’m going to do without you at work.”
There’s an ache in his chest. He’s thinking about the day he and Stef opened the Dallas office, the day they won their first account, the day Jeff Morgan came in to sign with them – their first major client. He thinks about how he and Stef got drunk that night on champagne, toasting each other and boasting about the great things they were going to do. He thinks about the first time he ever saw Jared, about how he used to watch Jared’s ass as he walked past his office, how Jared would glance at him and flash his dimples and flick his bangs out of his eyes, walking away with a self-conscious strut. The kid walked past his office about twenty freaking times a day, he’s pretty sure he didn’t need to go to the men’s room or the kitchen that often. He thinks about the day they opened the office in New York, how he and Jared came in on the weekend to fix up a load of shelving and artwork because the useless contractors had fucked up. They sat on the floor of Jensen’s new office afterwards and ate take-out, and then Jared blew him to christen the new office.
“That job,” he says, “that job was Stef’s job, and then yours. Just thinking about someone else doing that job—“
“Lynn’s good,” Jared interrupts. “And it’s the best thing for the business. She worked under Stefan too. Hell, she was way better qualified than me to do it after he – after he passed. She’s still way better qualified!”
“You’re not so bad,” Jensen mutters.
Jared laughs, his teeth flashing white in the dark. It’s a relieved sound though, and Jensen feels his own mouth tug up into a tentative smile. Jared knocks their shoulders together and reaches over to take his hand. He threads their fingers and brings Jensen’s hand to his mouth. Jensen watches Jared kiss his knuckles, feels the warm puff of Jared’s breath against his fingers. Jared lowers their hands and looks at him, his eyes wide and serious.
“So, you’re okay with this?” he asks tentatively.
“Yeah. If it makes you happy, Jare, then yeah. If that’s what you want.”
Jared nods his head, looking so freaking sincere and relieved that it hurts. “I do. I do want. And you realize that this saves about 100k from the art department budget if I’m gone. Probably more than that when you take out pension and insurance contributions and—“
“Hell, no,” Jensen interrupts, “I’m not taking you off the pension and insurance schemes. We’ll need those in future. I want to make double sure that you and Jonah are covered. Besides, this isn’t over completely. You’ll still do work for us? Like, from here, or whatever?”
“Yeah, sure, yeah. I mean, I don’t even know if I want to think about trying to paint properly yet.”
“And you’re sure as hell not working for any of the competition,” Jensen adds.
Jared laughs. “Of course not.”
“Okay then.” Jensen nods, smirks a little as he says, “Padalecki, you’re fired.”
Jensen announces the changes on Friday with the Dallas office on the video screen and everybody in New York crowded into the conference room. He talks about a new stage in the company’s future, about sacrifices and pulling together and working as a team. He doesn’t sugarcoat it, says it’s a difficult time, there will be redundancies and pay freezes, there’ll be a process, and they’ll get to know later in the day if their job is at risk.
He announces the upper management changes, too. Jared’s not the only one leaving, but he’s the one that gets an audible gasp of surprise. He feels several pairs of shocked eyes on him as Jensen explains how Lynn will be leading both Art Departments in the future, and how they’ll be consolidated into one unit.
Jared is surprised when he gets back to his own department afterwards by how many people want to talk to him, how many of his guys are sad that he’s going and want to know why he’s leaving. He’s touched; he didn’t realize he was that popular.
“Of course you’re popular,” Jensen says later, like it’s a given. “You let them get away with murder. Lynn – now she’s a hard-ass. They won’t know what’s hit them.”
Jensen’s holding a beer, standing by the French doors, watching Jared grill out on the deck. It’s a warm night, and Jared’s in just a t-shirt, his own beer standing next to the pile of uncooked meat.
Jonah’s throwing a stick for Henry at the end of yard, capering after him and wrestling the poor animal to the ground when he comes back with the stick. Jonah’s dirty and grass-stained and covered in mud. Surprisingly, Jensen hasn’t commented on it yet.
Jared drops the steaks onto the grill with a satisfying sizzle. Jensen slides up behind him, curls one arm around his middle. “I’m going to miss you,” he says. He’s had a few drinks; they’ve loosened him up some, gotten him a little maudlin. “Who the hell am I supposed to ogle without you around?”
Jared smiles, turns to cup the back of Jensen’s neck and drag his fingers through Jensen’s short hair. “I’m sure you’ll manage. If you get really desperate, you can always hire someone new to stare at.”
“Not right now. We’ve just announced a shit-load of redundancies. I won’t be able to hire anybody for at least a year.” Jensen pouts and pulls away from him with a lofty sigh.
“You’ll be alright,” Jared repeats. He’s trying to believe it himself. Providence has been his life for a long time; it’s what brought him and Jensen together. He feels a loyalty for the company that he’s never felt for anywhere else. He moved about so much as a kid that he never got a chance to feel any kind of hometown pride for anywhere. He has worked at other agencies, and of course he was a student for a long while, but he’s spent the majority of his relationship with Jensen working at the same company as him, working at his company. It’s going to be weird not seeing Jensen during the day. Some days, the only time he does get to see Jensen is at work. Hell, it’s probably about time that they got this distance in their relationship, the fabled work-life balance.
“And if you want to see me, then – well, you’ll just have to make sure you come home earlier. That way you can see Jonah too,” Jared adds.
“I guess so,” Jensen sighs. Jared watches him raise his eyes and look down the garden towards Jonah, currently rolling around on the grass with the dog. “Jonah!” he shouts, loud enough to make Jared flinch. “Come here! Now!”
Jensen strides across the lawn towards the boy. Henry leaps to his feet and runs at Jensen, panting and circling him excitedly. Jensen ignores the dog, turns to Jonah who’s sheepishly trying to adjust his grass-stained t-shirt. “Jesus Christ, the state of you. Go inside now and get yourself cleaned up before dinner.”
Jared shakes his head and looks down at the steaks as Jonah runs past him and into the house. He picks up the tongs to turn them over, savoring the delicious smell that rises up from the grill. He takes a pull on his beer, watching Jensen’s ass as he bends over to pick up the stick to toss for the dog. Jared smiles to himself. He feels good, and he’s pretty sure they’re going to be okay.
Final! Author's Note: If anything seems familiar to anyone about this fic then that might be because there is a tad of self-plagary going on here. My original inspiration for this was a fic I wrote years ago for Queer As Folk fandom called Three Days in our Bullshit Domestic Life from which I borrowed a couple of plot points. This fic also owes a debt to QAF with Jared the artist, Jensen the ad-exec and the hate crime bombing - which of course was a major plot point in season 5 of QAF. No one died on that show, I was much harder on Jared and Jensen, but in my defence, they do suffer so beautifully ;-)