Jensen feels his cock sliding into the guy’s ass vaguely, as though slightly removed from himself. What was his name again? he wonders idly as he grips slim hips hard enough to bruise, forcing the guy to scrabble for purchase on the wall of the back room of the bar. He thrusts in harder, wanting to feel something, but the guy is pushing back against him, panting and moaning and jerking his cock frantically, so he knows he isn’t being too rough. Feel something, he thinks bitterly, as if he doesn’t know by now that nothing is going to cut through the numbness.
Still, there’s friction and a tight ass around his dick and Jensen comes after a few more thrusts. He pulls out quickly, tying off the condom and throwing it away. He has his pants up and his belt buckled before his partner has a chance to do more than sag boneless against the wall.
“Well, that was great. Thanks,” he says perfunctorily, taking a step backwards. The guy’s all fucked out, so probably his brain isn’t getting the messages Jensen is sending quite fast enough. He reaches out a hand and pulls Jensen towards him, moving in for a kiss. Jensen places a hand on his chest and pushes slightly, not unkind, but firmly removing the guy from his space.
He’s at the door, hand on the knob when the guy says, “Can I get your number?”
Can’t take a hint, Jensen thinks and rolls his eyes slightly. He gives the guy his signature smirk and simply says, “No.” Then he’s out the door and back into the smoke and noise and crowd of the main room.
He spots Chris over by the bar and wades through the mass of people to his side. “Hey, I’m gonna call it a night. See you at home, okay?”
Chris looks over in the direction Jensen came from and his eyes go flat with comprehension. Jensen follows his gaze and sees tonight’s conquest just stumbling out of the back room looking completely debauched. “Jen—“ Chris starts.
“Bye, Chris,” Jensen cuts him off and is on his way before his best friend can say anything more. He tosses a devil-may-care grin over his shoulder and pretends he doesn’t see the worry on Chris’ face.
Not long after Chris watches Jensen practically sprint out the door, Steve sidles up and grabs the recently vacated stool next to him at the bar.
“Jen leave already?” he asks.
Chris nods. “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am,” he says, laughing humorlessly and nodding towards the other side of the room where Jensen’s latest fuck buddy is still leaning dazedly against the doorframe. Steve’s lips thin and the worry in his eyes mirrors Chris’.
Chris sighs heavily and Steve rubs his shoulder comfortingly, but they let the subject drop. After all, what is there to say? Jensen does this every weekend, sometimes more than once. Chris knows Jensen is careful; always uses a condom and gets tested regularly just to be sure, but that doesn’t really make it better.
On the other hand, this has been a pretty solid pattern for about seven years now and Chris really doesn’t like to dwell on the time before that. As bad as the casual, anonymous sex is, that was infinitely worse.
Chris takes a long pull of his beer and tries to put Jensen out of his mind. His best friend is home and safe for now and there’s a hot blond next to him who really deserves some love and attention.
Jensen’s alarm goes off and he groans and rolls over. He hates Monday mornings and he’s slightly hung-over today. He feels the pounding in his head distantly, though. Making a mental note to have a beer or two fewer on Sunday nights, he drags himself out of bed and into the shower.
Force of habit carries him through his morning routine and sees him out the door, coffee in hand, just as he hears Chris’ alarm go off in the other bedroom and Chris’ very colorful insults of the alarm clock’s parentage. One corner of his mouth twitches upward a fraction. Chris is one of the best things in his life. Not that there’s a lot of competition, but he’s pretty sure that even if there were, Chris would still top the list. Jensen doesn’t know what he’d do without him.
Jensen would be lost without his routine. He tries to schedule each moment of his day because he really doesn’t know what to do with downtime. Plus there’s the constant fear that if he stops moving for too long, he won’t start again. The fear doesn’t occupy the front of his consciousness. It doesn’t distract him. Rather, it’s like white noise in the back of his mind. Its constant presence makes him forget it’s there most of the time. But if he has time to dwell on things, it might get a lot louder.
So Jensen has his routine and his schedule. Monday through Friday he goes to work, of course. He’s a mid-level associate with a very respectable local marketing firm. He started as an assistant there straight out of college three years ago. At school, he majored in marketing with a minor in music. He only got the minor because Chris poked and prodded until capitulation was easier than resisting anymore, refusing to let Jensen push his lifelong love of music aside.
Jensen vaguely remembers thinking at thirteen or fourteen that he might double major in English and Music, but that Jensen was an entirely different person. This Jensen likes the concrete nature of marketing; taking things that seem abstract and unquantifiable and reducing them to numbers and charts and focus groups. It’s safe.
Music and literature are shifting and nebulous, full of emotions that Jensen only dimly remembers ever feeling. Of course, Chris won’t let him close himself off from music. Just like he pushed Jensen to get the music minor, he dragged him, practically kicking and screaming, into his band. Of course he pretended Jensen was doing him a favor, but Jensen isn’t stupid. Chris has been working tirelessly for ten years to keep Jensen from entirely shutting down emotionally and music is a big part of that. Jensen is as grateful as he can be under the circumstances, but he knows he doesn’t show it. He can’t. It’s like there’s a wall between him and the rest of the world and the real Jensen, the one inside his head, can’t bridge the gap.
His phone rings around two o’clock.
“Jensen Ackles,” he answers.
“Hey, Jen,” Chris says, a note of excitement in his voice, “Just wanted to make sure you remembered about band practice tonight.”
Jensen raises his eyebrows even though Chris can’t see. He’s a creature of habit. He never forgets anything on his schedule. “Yeah, I remember.”
“Good, good.” Chris pauses for a just long enough to make Jensen nervous.
“Yeah. So, Jen, um—I might have found us a bass player. He’s gonna try out tonight, okay?”
Now Chris’ hesitation makes sense. He knows Jensen hates any last minute alterations to his schedule. This is a good thing, though. The band hasn’t been able to book any major gigs since their last bass player, Chad, quit a couple of months ago and moved to New York.
“That’s great, Chris,” he says evenly.
“Of course. If he’s any good maybe we can get some real gigs soon.”
Chris chuckles lightly. “Yeah. Well, here’s hoping.”
Jensen is glad that he can make his friend happy for once. “All right. See you tonight, Chris.”
Jared is trapped in his living room. He’s standing on a tiny island of clear floor, surrounded on all sides by cardboard boxes stacked about chest-high. He isn’t sure how this happened. He had an escape route a minute ago. He was just trying to find the box with his DVDs. He moved a few things and now he’s trapped.
He looks out on the sea of boxes and bags and scattered furniture, not one piece of which is anywhere close to where it should be, with a growing sense of dread. They have to be breeding. Packing boxes are an as-yet-undiscovered form of life because there is no way he actually has this much crap. It couldn’t possibly all have fit into his car and Jeff’s truck.
Jared quickly steers his mind away from thoughts of Jeff as he remembers the look on his brother’s face when he dropped him off in Richardson. He doesn’t know when he’ll see Jeff again, or Megan, but it doesn’t help to dwell. He returns his focus to the task at hand—getting free. He gingerly shifts a few boxes around until he has a path to the door. From there he can get to the bedroom through an exciting obstacle course around the room. However, access to the kitchenette at the side of the main room might require Olympic level pole vaulting, which could be why Jared’s been eating take-out for the past two days.
His eyes light on the long, rectangular case propped near the door. It’s dull, black plastic enlivened by stickers for various bands. He opens the case to reveal his bass guitar. Jared feels better just looking at it. The shimmering dark teal body and the four sturdy strings running across it ground him. It makes him feel a little more at home in strange place.
Jared pulls out the instrument and his tuner. He wants to be ready for tonight. He can’t believe his luck at finding a band looking for a bass player before he’s even unpacked. He was just checking out the online classifieds as an excellent mode of procrastination from sorting through the contents of boxes and came across the listing from this band, Collin Street Secret. He sent them an email right away and got a response in less than an hour asking him to come to their practice the next day and try out.
He tried and failed to keep from beaming his thousand-watt grin at his empty apartment, feeling like a big dork. Then he figured no one was around to mock him for it and gave up. He tried to do a happy dance and nearly killed himself falling over boxes.
But that’s kind of par for the course. Jared’s pretty hyper and most of the time he can’t concentrate on one thing for too long before he’s on to the next new and shiny. The casual observer might wonder how he’d managed to stick with one instrument for so long and with such dedication. But even the most frenetic personality needs a center. When Jared plays his bass, all the crazy, scattered thoughts spinning in his head just settle down and get quiet for a while. The smooth, low vibrations against his fingers seem to seep into his soul and give him some peace.
Not to mention he really likes to rock out with a band. He has a good feeling about the tryout. Sandy, his best friend from college, would say it’s just his overly optimistic nature playing tricks on him, but Jared hopes this will be one of those times when his feelings turn out to be entirely accurate. He smiles wistfully thinking of Sandy. She’s just one more person he’s had to leave behind to start this new life. He squares his shoulders and tells himself firmly that it’s worth it.
Glancing at his watch, Jared realizes he’d better hurry and get a shower if he wants to have time to eat before his audition. He puts his bass away and closes the latches on the case before standing cautiously and gearing himself up for the harrowing trip to the bedroom.
Jared’s cussing out Mapquest. He may even have made up some new words to describe his loathing of it. And really, he should have known better. He vows quite solemnly that he will never cheat on Google Maps again if he can just get where he’s going.
Apparently the Google gods are listening because he manages to make it to the right address with a couple of minutes to spare. And honestly, Richardson is tiny. He’s not sure how he even managed to get lost in the first place. He takes a couple of deep breaths and cuts the ignition.
The house is a fairly small one-storey that’s showing its age a bit around the edges, but is reasonably nice and well cared for. The email had said to come around to the basement entrance at the back of the house. He gets out of the car and grabs his bass case from the back seat.
He’s fairly close to the house before he can hear the rumbling of the drumming. Good sound proofing, he thinks. He descends the narrow flight of concrete stairs and knocks at the door. He’s not really surprised when no one answers. It’s hard to hear anything over drums, he knows. Hoping it doesn’t come across as presumptuous, he pushes the door open and ducks just slightly to enter.
He’s right about the soundproofing. The second Jared opens the door he’s nearly bowled over by the force of the percussion. Thanks to the noise level, he has a moment to observe his surroundings before the occupants of the room notice his presence. There’s a beat up couch against the wall to his left. A muscular guy with chin-length dark brown hair sits on it. His t-shirt is reasonably tight and indicates a nicely sculpted torso. It says “Don’t Mess With Texas.” His jeans are ripped at the knees and a cowboy hat sits on the arm of the couch beside him.
His wardrobe says “good ‘ole boy,” but his actions say something a bit different. There’s another guy sitting on the floor beside him. He’s dressed in jeans and a plain gray t-shirt and he’s leaning up against the first guy, his head resting on his knee. The cowboy is running his fingers affectionately through his blond hair. They both look deeply relaxed, like they’re listening to Mozart instead of an energetic drum solo.
Jared’s eyes are drawn to the source of the wall of sound and suddenly he’s rooted to the spot and he can’t stop staring. The drummer has dirty blond hair, shorter than the other two band members and currently spiked with sweat from his exertions. He’s dressed in jeans and a wife-beater that’s clinging to his sticky skin. He’s well built, with muscles that are lean rather than bulky. Jared’s eyes catch on his glistening biceps and forearms that flex as he pounds out a frantic rhythm.
This guy is gorgeous all over, but it’s his eyes that have Jared mesmerized. They’re an impossibly clear green and as he plays they shine with an intensity that he’s never seen. He’s caught off-guard by the wave of desire that hits him straight in the gut. Want. Want now.
He’s still trying to wrestle his baser instinct back under control when he’s surprised by a tap on his shoulder. He’d been so caught up in staring at the drummer he hadn’t even realized the other guys had finally noticed him and gotten up. It’s the cowboy who’s trying to get his attention. He stands a good six inches shorter than Jared, but unlike most people, he doesn’t look at all intimidated by the height difference.
He opens his mouth and tries to say something, but the words are lost in the noise. Jared shakes his head and taps his ear to indicate he can’t hear. The brunet nods and jogs over to the drummer, tapping him on the shoulder. He barely misses losing an eye to a flying drumstick as the noise comes to an abrupt halt.
“Jesus, Chris! You scared the hell out of me!”
Chris, for this must be the Chris Kane he’s been emailing with, angles his head in Jared’s direction. The drummer’s eyes widen and then Jared watches the strangest thing happen. It’s like a wall goes down behind those green eyes, hiding the intense look that had him so fascinated. Then he seems to just close up. The beautiful, feral creature Jared had witnessed gets tucked away behind a mask of politeness as the guy stands and comes towards him, trailing behind Chris.
“Hey, I’m Chris Kane. You must be Jared.” Chris claps Jared’s hand in a hearty handshake.
Jared nods. “Yeah, it’s great to meet you.”
Chris nods first to his right. “This here’s Steve,” he says, indicated the blond whose hair he’d been stroking.
“Steve Carlson,” he introduces himself and Jared collects another hearty handshake.
Chris then indicates the drummer. “And this is Jensen Ackles.”
“Nice to meet you, Jensen,” Jared says with perhaps more enthusiasm than is strictly necessary, but he can’t quite contain his fascination.
“A pleasure,” Jensen murmurs and his handshake is nothing like the others. Firm enough to not be considered a flimsy handshake, but not one iota too hard or too familiar. Jared gets an uncanny feeling that Jensen has studied handshakes to make his exactly correct and proper, but surely that’s ridiculous.
Then Chris is off on a spiel about the band and Jared yanks his attention back. “So I do guitar and lead vocals. Steve’s lead guitar and backup vocals. I guess it goes without saying that Jensen’s on drums.” He tosses a smirk in Jensen’s direction.
Jared’s delighted when Jensen sticks his tongue out at Chris, his eyes sparkling with mischief for a split second before he slips back behind his guarded expression.
“Anyway, Jared, you can set up here,” Chris continues, indicating a spot slightly less covered in tangled wires than the surrounding area. Jared pulls out his bass and tuner, moving into the indicated spot. His instrument hasn’t managed to get too badly out of tune since an hour ago, so he makes some slight adjustments and is ready to go. He fishes around in the mess of cables on the ground for a moment until he finds a free cord into the amp.
He straightens up and slides the strap around his shoulder. Chris and Steve have finished setting up too and Chris thrusts a stack of papers at him. “Here. I printed out chord sheets for a few of our old standbys.” He waves a hand at a music stand perched precariously among the wires. “You can use that. You ready to have at it?” There’s a friendly challenge in his voice.
“Absolutely,” Jared says, grinning widely.
They run a brief sound check and then Chris counts down the first song. It’s a rollicking country-rock number and Jared takes a couple of measures to pick up the tempo. Then he jumps in with both feet. The chord progression itself is fairly simple and he has it memorized after a couple of verses. Then he’s able to really sink in and enjoy playing and observing the others. Jensen’s setting a blazing rhythm, his arms flying. Steve’s fingers are moving too fast to follow across the strings of his guitar. Chris is strumming for all he’s worth and they’re laying down an amazing vocal harmony on top of it all.
Jared’s grin spreads from ear to ear. It’s been too long since he’s been able to play like this. Actually, he’s not sure he’s ever played quite like this. These guys are amazing. But then, so is he. He starts listening for where he might be able to toss in a little something other than the standard bass line. And there it is. There’s this little breath between the verse and the chorus. The next time it comes around he tosses in a little turn. Chris looks over and gives him an appreciative nod and Jared grins back, not missing a note.
They play for a couple of hours and things continue to go well. At least, Jared thinks so, and he’s pretty sure those are positive signals he’s getting from Chris and Steve. Jensen, well, Jared is boggled by Jensen. Whenever they’re playing, that intense look comes back into his eyes and he pounds the drums like a man possessed. The second the last chord sounds he swipes a hand across his forehead and he’s all prim and proper again. Clearly there’s something fairly major going on with Jensen that Jared is not privy to. And hey, they’ve barely met, it’s okay. But by the time Chris calls a halt on account of the neighbors, Jared’s determined that he’s going to find out what’s hiding behind Jensen’s enigmatic exterior.
As Jared’s packing up Chris says, “Well, Jared, you’re a damn good bassist. So the three of us will have a little sit down and give you call in the next day or so, all right?”
Jared grins and clasps Chris’ hand once more. “Sounds great,” he says, hoping he doesn’t seem too eager. It’s never good to come across as needy. He’s pretty sure he’s in, though. He tries to remember what his momma told him about not counting his chickens before they’re hatched, but he’s pretty sure he can hear chirping. And then he has to take a moment trying not to wince in pain at the memory of his mother. He banishes it quickly to the back of his mind and hefts his case. “I’ll look forward to it,” he says, waving a general farewell around the room before exiting and taking the basement stairs two at a time on his way up.
Jensen watches Jared go with a mixture of relief and disappointment. He hasn’t been this off balance in years. He can’t believe the giant with floppy hair and the biggest grin he’s ever seen has thrown off his equilibrium so thoroughly in such a short time. Jared looked at him with those hazel cat eyes and Jensen suddenly felt defenseless, like Jared could see straight through all his carefully constructed armor right into his broken soul. It was terrifying.
What’s even scarier was that some part of Jensen doesn’t mind. Jared is freaking six four and has the build to go with it. He should be deeply intimidating, but he has such a harmless, almost puppy-like demeanor that it somehow counteracts his physical size. Like maybe he’s someone that can be trusted. Someone safe.
Jensen shakes his head to clear it. Thinking like that is dangerous. He can’t let people in. He makes a decision then and there. He’s going to fuck Jared. Fuck him until his brains shoot straight out through his dick and prove he’s just like everybody else. Then Jensen will be safe again. Won’t get this squirmy feeling like he doesn’t fit in his skin anymore. He nods decisively, settling on his plan.
“Jen! Hey, Jen, you still with us?” Chris waves a hand in front of his face.
Jensen bats it away, scowling half-heartedly. “Yeah, what?”
“Just discussing the maybe, hopefully newest member of the band. No big deal,” Chris teases, rolling his eyes.
Jensen flushes, realizing how far he’d zoned out. “Right, sorry.”
“So, what’d you think? He’s great, right?”
There’s no denying Jared is a stellar bassist. They should definitely grab him before someone else does. Then it hits him. Jared’s almost certainly going to be joining the band. Generally he doesn’t ever see his casual fucks again once he’s done with them, but he’d have to see Jared at least twice a week. He mentally curses a blue streak. But if he has to see Jared on a regular basis and he doesn’t fuck him, it’s going to be completely unbearable.
No, he definitely needs to stick to the plan. Doesn’t mean they can’t play together afterward. Might be a little awkward, but Jensen figures Jared’s a big boy. If he can’t take the brush off gracefully then he’s probably not someone they want to be associating with anyway. All right, so, proceeding with the plan then.
He realizes Chris is angling a concerned look at him and he’s zoned out again. “Yeah, absolutely, he’s fantastic. Let’s call him!”
Chris chokes out a laugh. “All right there, Sparky. Glad you agree, but we don’t want to look desperate, right? I’ll give him a call tomorrow and let him know.”
Steve and Chris pack up their guitars and they all pile out of the basement and head around to the front of the house. Steve tosses his case into the back of his midsize SUV. He has his hand on the driver’s side door handle when Chris stops him, placing his hand over top and crowding into Steve’s space. “You sure you can’t stay tonight?” he asks, running his other hand through Steve’s hair.
Steve nods. “Yeah, I’ve got to be at work really early.” Steve owns this little place in town. It’s half coffee shop, half bookstore. Most times he gets high school kids, desperate for a little extra cash, to do the ass o’clock opening shifts, but he is the boss, so sometimes he can’t get around it.
Chris nods sympathetically. “Okay, get some sleep, sugar,” he drawls, then leans in and kisses his boyfriend.
Jensen rolls his eyes and heads on into the house. Those two are like newlyweds even though they’ve been together for nearly four years. Goodbyes will take twenty minutes at least. He feels a brief twinge of sadness, knowing he’ll never have what they have, but he shoves it away. His way is safer. As long as he doesn’t let anyone in, no one can hurt him.
Jared pulls out his cell phone on the drive home and hits the speed dial for Sandy.
She picks up on the second ring. “Hey, sweetie! What’s up?”
“Hey, nothing much. I just finished my tryout with that band I was telling you about.”
“Oh yeah? How did it go? Did they fall at your feet and beg you to join immediately?”
Jared laughs. “Not quite, but it went really well, I think. And they seem like really cool guys. Chris—Chris Kane, the lead singer, said he’d call me probably tomorrow, so I should know soon.”
“Well that’s great! They’d be idiots not to snap you up, with your talent.”
“Aww, you’re just saying that ‘cause you have to. Best friend rules and all.”
“Nah, I’d say it even if I wasn’t contractually obligated. You really are, you know.”
“How’s everything else? You settling in okay?”
He sighs softly. “Yeah, it’s all right. I start work at the fabulous Richardson Gazette next week and I hope I can get everything unpacked before then. My apartment is seriously tiny.”
“Well, that’s the price of independence,” she says, a smile back in her voice, “You have to pay your dues somewhere. And anyway, soon you’re going to be a famous bassist and you won’t have to slave away working nine to five like the rest of us.”
“Here’s hoping,” he answers.
“All right, sweetie, I’ve gotta run. You take care of yourself, all right?”
“Don’t I always?”
“Yeah. And Jared?”
“I miss you.”
He bites his lip hard for a second, fighting a traitorous tightening in his throat. After a moment he thinks his voice is back under control. “Yeah, I miss you too.”
Jensen is having trouble concentrating at work. This is deeply disturbing because Jensen never has trouble concentrating at work. He loves work because he can just turn off all extraneous parts of his brain and dive into the cold comfort of numbers and graphs for eight hours. But today he just can’t seem to focus. He’s been staring at the same page of survey data for the last half hour. His mind keeps wandering, memories of hazel eyes, floppy brown hair, and a blindingly white grin flitting in front of his eyes.
Mumbling a curse, he shoves his chair back from his desk and gets up. He heads to the break room, thinking some coffee might clear his head. The room is as corporately sterile as the rest of the office. The only decorations are the legally required posters about Worker’s Compensation and Minimum Wage.
He opens the cupboard over the small dishwasher and grabs a mug at random from the motley selection contained therein. He turns on his heel, heading for the coffee maker on the opposite side of the room. Unfortunately he didn’t notice someone else had come into the break room. He runs smack into a tiny blonde woman and the empty mug goes flying from his hand, shattering on the tile floor. Instantly he’s mumbling apologies, asking if she’s all right, and sinking to his knees to attempt to collect the shards of coffee cup.
“Hey, hey, stop that! You’re going to cut yourself!” She tugs at his sleeve. “Come on, I’m fine. No blood, no foul, right? Let me just grab the broom.”
Jensen stands somewhat sheepishly, dusting off the knees of his slacks. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
“Totally fine,” she assures him, grinning as she sweeps up the jagged pieces of porcelain, “I’m Allison, by the way. I’m new.”
Which would explain why he didn’t recognize her. Sure, he didn’t spend a lot of time socializing with his coworkers, but he at least knew them all by face and name. He extends his hand to offer his perfectly modulated handshake. “Jensen.”
Her eyebrows go up. “Oh, so you’re Jensen.”
He frowns, confused. “Yes?”
She grins again. “They told me about you is all.”
“Told you what?”
“Oh, they just said you were kind of,” she pauses and he knows she’s trying to come up with a polite way of phrasing whatever she’s been told, “prickly.”
“Prickly?” he repeats.
She nods. “Yeah, but I don’t put much stock in office gossip. You seem pretty nice to me.”
He smiles wistfully, appreciating the effort, but knowing it won’t last long. He decides to save her the trouble. “They’re probably right,” he says. “I’m just not much for office socializing.”
“Hmm. Well that’s fair, I guess.” She purses her lips for a moment. “Think you’d be up for making an exception? It’s just that I’m new in town and, prickly or not, you’re the nicest person I’ve met so far.”
Jensen’s kind of taken aback. It must show in his expression because Allison makes puppy-dog eyes at him.
“Come on, please? Be my office buddy?”
She startles a laugh from him. He really ought to shut her down. Letting people in is always dangerous, but she’s staring up at him, her lower lip protruding comically. She’s just a co-worker, after all, and a small, non-threatening, female one at that. He sighs and gives in. “Yeah, all right, but no promises I’ll actually be a good one.”
She snaps out of the fake pout, grinning brightly. “Awesome! See you for lunch then?” And she’s gone, leaving Jensen staring bemusedly after her wondering what he’s gotten himself into.
He heads back to his office, forgetting about his coffee entirely. He works steadily until she barrels into his office at 12:30 and drags him out to lunch. He’s surprised when he realizes he hasn’t thought about a certain, ridiculously tall bass player all morning.
For the second day in a row, Jensen gets a mid-afternoon call from Chris.
“Hey, buddy!” Chris sounds enthusiastic rather than apprehensive today.
“So I called Jared and he,” Chris pauses, “Well, actually he kind of squealed like a little girl, then tried to act all cool to cover it up.” Chris sounds delighted in a kind of evil way and Jensen supposes Jared is never going to live this down.
“So he’s in?”
“Definitely. I told him he should come by Steve’s for drinks tonight. You up for swinging by?”
“Sure, what time?”
“Okay, see y’all then.”
“Great. Bye, Jen.”
Jensen figures tonight is as good a time as any to execute his plan. A couple of Steve’s Irish coffees and Jared won’t know what hit him. And afterwards Jensen won’t have to worry about that too-perceptive gaze anymore.
The Java Script is Steve’s pride and joy. It’s half coffee shop, half bookstore and, because this is Texas, he has a liquor license. The coffee is as plain or as fancy as you want to make it. Steve caters to both the younger generation who grew up speaking Starbucks and the older crowd who “just want a cup of coffee dammit.”
As for the books, he orders in a few new copies of the hottest bestsellers, but mostly operates on the book exchange principle. Used books sell for half the list price and if you bring in books to trade, you get a quarter of the list price in credit. Since the books are already in used condition, it doesn’t really matter if people flip through them while they’re having their coffee.
When he first started up, straight after graduating with a joint degree, BA in English with an MBA tacked on in just an extra year, he trawled library sales across three counties to stock the shelves. He has some heavy competition from Starbucks, but Richardson is the kind of town that likes to support independent enterprise, so he’s doing pretty well. Over the past three years he’s built up a loyal customer base and he’s tremendously proud of what he’s achieved.
The shop is decorated in dark wood and jewel toned furniture. The light is bright enough to read by, but it has a warm quality to it that gives a cozy “sit a spell” feel, helped along by the numerous big, fluffy chairs. He’s seated in his favorite one, looking over the paperwork for next week’s coffee order while he waits for Chris, Jensen, and Jared.
Steve met Chris and Jensen by chance when they were in their last year at UT Dallas. Chris was playing at this coffee shop near campus with Jensen running sound and Steve was shamelessly scoping the place out for ideas he could adapt. As soon as he spotted Chris, though, he had something better to scope out than the floor plan.
Chris spotted him too and wasted no time introducing himself after the set. Steve had never felt such an instant connection with anyone and it was entirely mutual. He’s sure they would have gone home together that night if it weren’t for Jensen. Steve gets it now, but at the time he was fantastically confused.
“Hey, do you want to get out of here?” he’d asked.
Chris’ eyes had gone dark and hungry and Steve was sure he was going to say yes, but then he’d glanced at his timid little green-eyed friend. “Umm, we should get going actually. Jensen, my roommate, he doesn’t really like to be out after dark.”
Steve stared at him incredulously. “Can’t he take care of himself?”
He clearly spoke too loud because Jensen, packing up their equipment a few feet away, flinched. Chris saw it and when he turned back to Steve, his expression was hard.
“Listen, Steve, nice to meet you and all, but we’ve got to get going. See you around.” His voice contained none of the warmth it had just moments before and Steve was instantly sorry even though he wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened. He sat there dumbfounded as Chris helped Jensen pack up the last of their gear and head for the exit.
Chris was nearly to the door, a protective arm slung around Jensen’s shoulders when Steve decided he was an idiot if he didn’t try to fix this. He jumped up and caught Chris’ arm before he made it outside.
“Yeah?” Chris’ expression was far from welcoming.
“Listen, man, I’m sorry. That was a stupid thing to say. I don’t know either of you and I shouldn’t have said anything about something I don’t know anything about, so. Sorry. Umm, here’s my number.” He thrust a scrap of paper at Chris who looked like he took it more out of surprise than anything else. “I’m not usually such an ass and I’d just. Really like it if you called.” He stopped and realized he didn’t have any idea what to do next. He felt a blush creeping up his neck and decided he’d better get out before he dug himself in any deeper. “Umm, okay, have a nice night. Bye!” He slid around them and out the door, leaving Chris and Jensen gaping after him like fish.
Chris called the next day and blew him in a secluded corner behind the library that afternoon. And the rest was history as far as he and Chris were concerned. Jensen was another story entirely. Steve got to know him in fits and starts, with Chris running heavy interference. He didn’t make the mistake of questioning Chris taking care of Jensen again, though. He just went with it and figured it would all sort itself out in time.
Shortly before graduation, he got the full story. Or as much of the full story as he’s ever likely to get. Chris tried to get Jensen to tell Steve himself, but he just couldn’t do it. He gave permission for Chris to tell him though. Chris gave him only the bare bones of the story, but that was more than enough. After that, he never questioned Chris’ protectiveness of his best friend again, even privately.
Somewhere in the middle of all that they started playing music together, along with the now-absent Chad Murray. When graduation rolled around, it seemed like a no brainer to follow Chris and Jensen back to Richardson. After all, he could start up his shop anywhere and honestly, wherever Chris went, Steve followed. He was a little disappointed that Chris didn’t want to live together. Well, that’s not really fair. Steve knows that Chris both wanted and still wants to move in with him, but he’s too loyal a friend to abandon Jensen. Steve suggested once that they could all three share a house, but Chris didn’t think it was a good idea.
Instead, Steve converted the second floor of Java Script into a small apartment. It’s functional, but that’s about it. He doesn’t want to put a lot of effort into something he hopes is temporary. But he and Chris are in a kind of holding pattern as long as Jensen still needs Chris so much. Steve’s a patient man, though, and he loves Chris to a degree that is truly stupid. So he can wait. He tries not to entertain thoughts about what might happen if Jensen never gets any better, and if sometimes, in the dark hours of the early morning, he fails, well, he can just pretend he doesn’t remember.
Steve jerks himself back into the present and realizes he has gotten exactly nowhere on his paperwork. Right now he’s not worried about him and Chris. Right now he’s worried about Jensen and how he’s going to deal with the newest introduction to their inner circle. Jensen doesn’t do that well with new people. Based on their first meeting, though, Steve thinks Jared is as good a choice as they could have hoped to find. It’s not just that he’s a good bass player. Any number of people fit that bill, but Jared seems to have a really good grasp of people and how to deal with them. Steve knows he noticed Jensen clamming up when they were introduced, but Jared didn’t push the issue.
“You know, boss, if you’re not careful your face will stick like that.”
Steve’s assistant manager, Sophia, is leaning on the back of his chair, grinning impishly at him. He rolls his eyes at her. “Don’t you have work to do?” he demands with mock sternness.
“Oh, absolutely. Let me just go take care of that 6:30 coffee rush.” She gestures broadly around the store at the empty counter and the three customers reading contentedly in various corners. “So what’s got your sunny self looking all dark and moody?” she enquires.
“Nothing. We, uh, found a new bass player.”
Sophia’s smile dims momentarily, but brightens almost before Steve can catch it. “But that’s good news, right? I mean, you can start booking real gigs again!”
He smiles. “Yeah, it’s good. I’m just worried about Jensen.” He doesn’t have to elaborate. Sophia nods in comprehension immediately.
“Yeah, better than we could have expected.”
“Then it’ll be fine.”
“I hope so.”
The door on the bell jingles and a customer wanders in. Sophia straightens up and moves towards the counter. Steve grabs her hand before she can get far. “Hey, Soph?”
“Chad’s an ass.”
She tries to grin, but it’s more of a grimace. “Yeah, I know.” Her mood shifts abruptly. “Now stop keeping me from doing business!”
He laughs and lets her go, but follows her with his eyes. Sophia and Chad dated for nearly a year before he up and moved to New York. He didn’t give her any more warning than the rest of them and Steve finds it much harder to forgive the guy for dumping Sophia like yesterday’s garbage than for abandoning the band. She’s strong, though, and she’s already bouncing back. Steve shakes his head. Chad’s an idiot as well as an ass if he didn’t realize what he had in Sophia.
Just as Steve is turning his attention back to his paperwork, the bell rings again and Chris walks in. He sets the paper aside and stands, grinning wide. “Hey, baby,” he greets. He never gets tired of being allowed that easy familiarity.
Chris bounds up and kisses him in greeting. “Hey, yourself.”
“Yeah, figured we could use a little quality time.” He waggles his eyebrows suggestively.
Steve laughs. “You’re shameless, you know that?”
“Yep! Come on and let me show you a good time.”
Chris grabs his hand and drags him towards the door that opens on the stairs to his little apartment. He glances over his shoulder once and sees Sophia blowing him a kiss. He flushes a little, but follows his boyfriend eagerly.
They clatter up the stairs and into his tiny living room/dining room/kitchen. Chris shoves him right up against the nearest wall kisses him. He licks across Steve’s lips until he lets him in and their tongues tangle enthusiastically. They sink into each other like that for a few minutes before Chris pulls back and nips his lower lip lightly. “Missed you last night,” he pouts.
“Oh, poor baby,” Steve returns, “Why don’t you show me how much?”
Chris smirks devilishly. “Yeah, I can do that.” He teases his way down Steve’s chest, undoing one button at a time and kissing and licking at each newly exposed inch of flesh. Steve groans and lets his head fall back against the wall.
When Chris reaches the waistline of Steve’s jeans, he swipes his tongue back and forth just above it tantalizingly. Steve makes a slight whimpering sound in the back of his throat. “Stop teasing!”
Chris looks up at him along the line of his torso, his eyes sparkling. “You know I’m good for it, baby.” He pops the button of Steve’s jeans and opens the fly, quickly shoving both jeans and boxers down around his knees. Then he pauses for just a moment. “Never get tired of seeing you hard for me,” he murmurs. Then he swallows as much of Steve’s cock as he can take. He wraps his hand around the base and starts bobbing up and down, sucking hard.
Steve groans and thrusts his hands into Chris’ hair. Chris is doing things with his tongue that ought to be illegal. Actually, come to think of it, are illegal in Texas, but who’s counting? Steve’s chest is heaving and he’s muttering an incoherent string of almost words as Chris drives him crazy. He feels the tension building from the base of his spine and tries to pull Chris’ head back. “Gonna. Gonna come,” he pants. Chris just hums around his cock and the vibration is Steve’s undoing. He’s coming hard, spurting right down Chris’ throat and Chris just sucks him dry.
The second he’s stopped shaking, Steve drags Chris up off his knees and kisses him sloppily. He tastes himself in Chris’ mouth and that’s just so dirtywrong it’s right. He fumbles with Chris jeans, getting them undone remarkably quickly considering the state of his fine motor skills. He thrusts a hand right down into Chris’ boxers and wraps it around his still-hard cock. Chris is teetering on the edge already and it doesn’t take more than a half dozen practiced pulls, catching the bundle of nerves right under the head each time, to bring him off.
Chris sags against him and they both slide down the wall to sprawl in a sated tangle of limbs. After a few minutes, their heart rates slow back down to something approaching normal.
“Hey,” Chris says, his voice kind of sleepy sexy, “Can I borrow some boxers?”
Steve snorts. “Yeah, sure.” He glances at his watch. “Hurry it up. We’ve got company coming and we’re late.”
Chris scrambles to his feet and makes his way into Steve’s bedroom. “What time is it?” he asks as Steve hears a dresser drawer opening.
Steve chuckles a little as he struggles up off the floor. He grabs a handful of tissues from the little table beside the couch and cleans himself up as best he can. Fortunately his clothes survived the encounter intact. He’s just managed to get himself buttoned up and more or less presentable when Chris reemerges from the bedroom in the same state. They’re both a bit flushed and their hair could use a good brushing, but there’s no time for that. Steve grins lasciviously at his boyfriend.
“Worth being a little late for if you ask me,” he says.
Jared wanders into the Java Script a few minutes before seven. He used Google Maps this time, even though he knew it was close enough to walk, but he didn’t want to risk being late because of some kind of divine retribution for daring to stray from the one true map. So, he left early. He found the place with no problem, breathed a sigh of relief, then took a couple of trips around the block. He didn’t want to be freakishly early, after all.
Now he’s only slightly early. He looks around and spots Jensen quickly, almost lost in a huge, fluffy blue chair.
“Hey, Jensen!” he greets enthusiastically, excited that he has a chance to talk to him alone.
Jensen starts slightly, then relaxes somewhat when he recognizes Jared. “Hey.”
“What’s up? Chris and Steve here yet?”
Jensen rolls his eyes. “Oh, they’re here,” he says, “They’re just upstairs.”
Jared’s confused for a minute and then it hits him. “You mean they’re—oh!”
“Yeah, they’re kind of like rabbits,” Jensen says, smirking.
That surprises a laugh out of Jared. “Well, there are worse things, right?”
Jensen raises an eyebrow. “Definitely.”
Just then, Chris and Steve emerge from the door at the back of the room looking somewhat the worse for wear. They make their way over and each grab a chair at the low table.
“Hey, guys! Jared, glad you could make it,” Chris greets.
Jared nods, biting his lips to keep from laughing. He figures it wouldn’t exactly be a good move to laugh at his brand new bandleader. He looks over and notices that Steve’s cheeks are burning, even as he looks quite pleased with himself. Chris, however, doesn’t seem the slightest bit embarrassed.
He leans over and stage whispers into Jared’s ear, “Gotta grab a little quality time with my boy when I can, right?”
And Jared is officially done. He cracks up, laughing so hard he can barely breathe and Chris slaps him on the back helpfully. He manages to get himself under control after a couple of minutes. Jensen is just looking at him, one eyebrow raised expressively. Steve buries his head in his hands and shakes it disbelievingly.
Chris just grins around the table like the whole spectacle is the best thing he’s seen all day. “Clearly, we all need a drink or six,” he declares.
Steve perks up at that. “Sophia!” he calls across to the bar.
A gorgeous brunette who reminds Jared a little bit of Sandy calls back, “Yeah, boss?”
“Irish coffee all around. These boys are dangerous sober!”
A few Irish coffees later Jared is feeling loose limbed and content. He’s talking to Chris and Steve like he’s known them forever and his hand is resting on Jensen’s thigh. Because at some point Jensen left his own chair and came to sit on the arm of Jared’s, slinging an arm around Jared’s neck.
Jared’s ecstatic at the attention, but there’s something slightly off about the scenario. He keeps trying to pin it down and he thinks if he were a little more sober he might be able to figure it out, but as it is, it flits around the edges of his consciousness, never quite coming into focus. It’s annoying, like a fly buzzing around his head, right in his peripheral vision, so he bats it away and concentrates on the pleasant warmth of the points of contact between him and Jensen.
At some point Jensen loses his balance and tumbles into Jared’s lap. There are slurred apologies and raucous laughter, but somehow Jensen doesn’t actually get up. He shifts and wriggles a bit until he’s curled into Jared’s side. Jared spends a few awkward moments wondering what to do with his hands until he just decides to go with it and lets one arm settle comfortably around Jensen’s shoulders.
It’s weird and he knows it’s weird and Chris and Steve are giving them shifty looks that Jared can’t quite read, but Jensen feels so good pressed up against him that he can’t bring himself to care. After another awkward moment, conversation starts up again. Jared’s finding it a little hard to concentrate on the topic at hand, and it’s definitely not just the alcohol. He has to focus more than a little to suppress the hard-on he’s getting from Jensen’s legs rubbing across his lap. A time or two he catches the edge of a mischievous smile on Jensen’s face that makes him pretty sure it’s not accidental.
A little while later, Jensen arches his neck up, pressing his lips against Jared’s jaw, just under his ear and murmuring something. Jared can hardly make out the words over the delicious sensations sliding along his nerves from the feel of Jensen’s lips on his skin.
“Hey, you wanna get out of here?”
Jared suppresses a low groan and nods emphatically. The next thing he knows Jensen’s pulled him up out of the chair and is somehow simultaneously hanging off of him and propelling him towards the door.
A second after that, his side is cold and empty with Jensen’s sudden absence. Chris drags him just out of earshot, speaking too low for Jared to hear, but his expression is angry and disapproving and he’s making rather violent gestures in Jared’s direction. Jensen listens calmly until Chris seems to wind himself down. Then he shakes his head firmly before shoving past his friend and walking back to Jared.
Jensen’s lips curl downright evilly as he wraps an arm back around Jared’s waist. “I believe we had somewhere to be,” he purrs.
Jared makes a valiant attempt at coherency. “What’s with Chris?”
Jensen actually clucks his tongue. “Don’t worry about it. He’s such a mother hen. Let’s just go.”
His fingers are teasing along the skin just above Jared’s waistband and that’s really enough incentive for Jared. “Yeah, okay.”
They make it out the door onto the sidewalk. As they try to decide on a direction, Jensen mumbles something about it being awkward at his place because of Chris. Jared points out that his apartment is within walking distance. “But it’s a mess,” he cautions.
Jensen rolls his eyes and shrugs. “Not gonna make a lot of difference, is it?”
Jared swallows hard at the implication, even though it’s not like he’s missed the point of leaving wrapped around each other. He’s a college graduate after all. He has the observational skills to figure that one out. And now he’s rambling ironically to himself. Except Jensen is laughing at him so perhaps his silent ramble was a little louder than anticipated and damn! Jared is never accepting alcohol from Steve again.
It takes them about fifteen minutes to stumble their way the four blocks to Jared’s apartment. Once he manages to fumble the lock open Jensen just stares for a minute, seemingly awed by the sheer vastness of the mess. “You weren’t kidding.”
“Dude, I warned you, but you didn’t want to hear it.”
“Is there a bed in here somewhere?”
And just like that Jared switches gears again. “Oh, hell yes.” He grabs Jensen’s arm and leads him through the tiny, safe path into the bedroom. Jensen pushes Jared up against the wall beside the door and shoves his t-shirt up over his head. Jared is surprised by the forceful move, but he raises his arms over his head to help the process along nonetheless.
He ducks his head, intending to kiss Jensen, but Jensen ducks to the side and starts nibbling his way down Jared’s neck towards his shoulder. He follows, really wanting to know what those sinful looking lips feel like. This time Jensen makes himself perfectly clear. He stops Jared by taking his chin in his hand and looking him straight in the eye. “No,” he says simply and firmly.
Jared stares into strangely cold green eyes and for a second he sees what looks like fear. Then he blinks and it’s gone, so he must have imagined it. He shrugs, confused, but willing to go with pretty much whatever because his upstairs brain is mostly out of commission.
Jensen is driving the whole situation and Jared feels like he’s just along for the ride. It’s a really, really fun ride, though. In no time he finds himself divested of the rest of his clothes and then Jensen is undressing himself. Jared tries to help, but finds he’s more of a hindrance to the process.
When they’re both naked, Jensen sinks to his knees and takes Jared’s cock in his mouth. Jared groans and throws his head back. It makes a dull thud against the wall, but the minor pain in his head can’t compete with the major pleasure of Jensen’s mouth enveloping him. He reaches forward to cradle Jensen’s head in his hands, but that makes Jensen pull back abruptly.
He looks up the long plane of Jared’s torso. “No,” he says again.
Now Jared definitely knows something is tweaked because Jensen just passed the “control freak” sign doing ninety and he wishes he’d had about three fewer Irish Coffees so he’d be sober enough to figure this one out, but he didn’t and he isn’t and he really just wants the warm, wet heat of Jensen’s mouth back on him. So he nods and gives in again, bracing his hands against the wall instead.
Jensen licks and sucks and uses just the barest hint of teeth to drive Jared insane until he thinks he’s going to explode if he doesn’t come right this minute. Then suddenly Jensen is crawling up his body and shoving him towards the bed. It’s still rumpled from this morning because in his wildest fantasies he never imagined he’d be having someone over for sex when he’s been in town less than a week, but Jensen doesn’t seem to mind, so Jared doesn’t worry about it.
Jensen pushes him forward onto his hands and knees and crawls up close behind him and Jared may be drunk, but he’s not far enough gone to be okay with that. He twists around to look at Jensen and now it’s his turn. He shakes his head firmly. “No. You wanna fuck me, you have to look at me while you do it.” Jared’s definitely not opposed to trying different positions, but something’s just off enough about the whole thing that he feels the need to insist.
Jensen’s eyebrows practically hit his hairline. He’s clearly never had anyone questions his methods before. Then his face sets in a mulish expression. Jared just stares stubbornly back at him. After a few moments of an intense, silent battle of wills, Jensen shrugs, giving in.
Jared’s lips twitch in satisfaction and relief. He’s glad he’s not the only one being led by his dick. He rolls fully onto his back and draws his knees up and Jensen crawls in between them. He’s already got a condom and lube in his hand. He tears the foil wrapper open and rolls the latex over his cock as Jared watches, mesmerized.
Jensen preps him efficiently, letting Jared know he’s done this more than a few times, but gently enough that he’s squirming only with pleasure. Then the fingers are gone and Jensen is pushing Jared’s knees further up and apart. He guides his slick cock into Jared’s opening and Jared draws his breath in between clenched teeth at the unbelievable feeling of fullness.
They’re both still for a moment as Jared adjusts, then he wraps his legs around Jensen’s waist and arches his hips up, letting Jensen know he’s ready to move. As with almost everything this evening, Jensen takes the lead, setting up a rhythm that has Jared whimpering and writhing beneath him.
For long moments while they move together, Jared locks eyes with Jensen. He watches emotions flit through the clear green irises too quickly to be identified, but they’re definitely not all good. Jared gets the feeling Jensen wouldn’t be too happy if he realized how revealing his eyes are just now.
Another moment and Jensen reaches in between them, taking Jared’s cock in his hand and tugging to create an utterly distracting friction. It doesn’t take either of them long after that. Jensen’s thrusts become erratic and his harsh breathing picks up a little whine on the exhale.
Jared’s not really sure who comes first, but it’s so close it really doesn’t matter. Then Jensen is collapsing half on top of him and they’re both trying to catch their breath.
After another moment, Jensen pulls out carefully and disposes of the condom. He’s about to flop back down when Jared catches sight of his face.
“Hey,” he says, tenderness lacing through his fucked out voice as he reaches up a massive hand to catch Jensen’s jaw, “You’re crying.” He rubs his thumb gently across Jensen’s wet cheek. He’s not sure what he expects after that, but it isn’t this.
Jensen swipes the back of his hand across his eyes as though he needs tangible confirmation of this turn of events. When he feels the tears Jared has pointed out, he’s suddenly batting Jared’s hand away, backing out of bed and reaching for his clothes seemingly in a single movement.
“I gotta go,” he mutters to the t-shirt in his hands before pulling it over his head.
Jared is baffled and he struggles to a sitting position. “Hey, wait. Why?”
Jensen’s managed to pulls his clothes on, however haphazardly, and he stuffs his feet into his shoes. He doesn’t even look at Jared as he tosses a “See ya,” over his shoulder and is out the door.
Jared makes it out of bed and grabs his boxers as he hears one of his boxes hit the ground with a loud crash. There’s a muffled word that might be “Sorry” and then his door slamming. By the time Jared makes it out of the bedroom, Jensen’s gone.
He stands more than half naked in his living room, staring at the closed front door in consternation. “What the hell?” he asks the empty apartment.