As soon as they were on the sidewalk and a car passed, Jensen stepped to the side, increasing the space between them and tucking his hands into his pockets.
Jared turned to watch the car pass then looked back at Jensen. “So, it’s like that.”
Jensen shook his head. “I just … I can’t be out.”
“What? Still the stuff from Richardson?”
He snorted and rolled his eyes. “No … I mean, yeah, that didn’t help. But I can’t while acting.”
Jared nodded and asked with a strange voice, “So, all the girls you get photographed with?”
Jensen hated it, surely did. But it had become part of what he had to do. He scrubbed a hand at the back of his head and sighed. “Yeah, just to cover it up.”
There was a slow building smile and Jared looked more than satisfied. “Always wondered about that. Didn’t know if …” and then he threw a quick glance towards the woods and shrugged. “If that was just one thing. Or if you really were.”
“What? You thought you turned me straight?” Jensen chuckled.
“Shut up. Jesus,” Jared laughed in return. “I just … thought maybe you’d been confused. Or even bi.”
Jensen snorted. “I thought that about you.”
With his hands going into his pockets and his shoulders up high, Jared sighed. “Yeah, wondered that myself.”
Jensen slowed and watched Jared. “Really?”
He nodded, and seemed to struggle with explaining, but soon enough the words nervously ran free. “After you left, I didn’t even know what was going on. I wound up talking to a counselor, and was afraid to even really tell her what had happened. I think I was more afraid of what she’d say.”
“Did she tell you to chill out?”
“What? No,” Jared laughed while rolling his eyes.
“’Cause it wouldn’t hurt,” Jensen said with a smirk.
“Look who’s talking. You’ve been all strung out this whole time.”
He chuckled to himself and hunched his shoulders in, not sure he was prepared to admit it but felt like he had to. “Feel pretty okay now.”
At the front door of his hotel, Jensen had asked Jared if he wanted to come in and Jared had stalled long enough to throw Jensen for a loop.
But once inside, Jared put it all away when Jensen pulled down his button-up. Jared moved in, tugging it down his arms and kissing, tossing it to the side while keeping his mouth on Jensen’s.
Jensen led them to the bed and dragged Jared down with him, bringing him down for cover, skin on skin, mouths together. He reeled at every feeling. Anticipation replaced control, and Jensen turned them over, straddling Jared’s hips and leaning in to kiss. “You done this before?”
“Yeah, I have. Why?” Jared asked on short breaths.
Jensen’s smirk was playful but turned dark as he drawled, “Didn’t know if this was one more thing I could corrupt you with.”
He tipped his head back with a laugh. “No, no, I’ve done it before. I’ve had a fairly healthy life.”
“Well, maybe that’s for the better,” Jensen smiled between kisses.
Jared’s hands slipped down Jensen’s back, pressing in low to force their bodies even tighter. “You’ll be my first movie star.”
He dropped his head to Jared’s chest with a chuckle. “Please don’t say that.”
They were up insanely early, Jensen writhing under Jared’s mouth, fingers slipping through his hair then tugging to get just the right angle.
As soon as he recovered, Jensen returned the favor and then settled against Jared, head at his stomach and sated. Until Jared’s belly growled and they laughed together.
Jensen looked to the clock and winced, it was barely five. “What’s even open this early?”
He turned over with an angry laugh. “You’re fucking with me.”
Jared tucked his hands behind his head and shrugged. “They’re twenty-four hours.”
“You’re really gonna make me go there?”
Jared eyed him. “Why’re you so worried?”
Jensen rolled to his side, trying for nonchalant, but the way he nervously rubbed one eye then scratched at his eyebrow was giving him away. “Not worried, just … not real interested.”
He reached out to kick Jensen’s side, not hard, just enough for attention. “You came back and now you’re not interested?”
Tipping his head up, Jensen watched Jared and caught the strange look and the way he waited for an answer. It was a bit troubling, seeing the awkward patience, and he wasn’t sure how to answer. He wasn’t even sure what Jared was waiting to hear. “Fine, we can go to Brewsters’,” he said with a forced sigh, rolling his eyes and frowning playfully to ease the moment. He gathered up some clothes, tugging them into place. “God, last time I went there, I think I had heartburn for a week.”
Jared slid to the edge of the bed, sitting up and grabbing his boxers off the ground. “Can’t imagine it fits with your all star diet.”
“Shit, I eat and drink whatever and then the trainer just punishes me in the gym. I’m sure this next week will be fun.” Jared’s strained chuckle broke Jensen from fixing himself in the mirror. He turned and watched Jared slowly get his own clothes on. “Hey.” Jared looked up and stared in return. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I just,” and Jared paused while looking down to zip and button his jeans closed. “It’s weird. You’re actually someone famous.”
With a smirk, Jensen taunted, “Telling me you haven’t seen any of my movies?”
His head tipped to the side with a rather serious face. “Of course I have.”
There was a barb on the tip of his tongue, but he felt the thickness in the air and knew it wasn’t right to joke. Jared was bothered and Jensen didn’t know what it was, didn’t know if he wanted to even know what it was. He fought to keep the humor from his voice, nerves making him fumble through the question, “You bothered by my being famous?”
Jared rolled his eyes and then yanked his shirt on. “Yes, Jensen. I’m terribly jealous.”
His voice went a bit amused when he said, “Well, now, that attitude certainly sounds like it.”
The way Jared’s mouth twisted told Jensen that there really was something there, but Jared kept getting dressed and then gave an easy smile. “I’m starving, let’s go.”
Jensen was mostly okay. It was early enough that the place was fairly empty and Jensen didn’t worry about being seen or bothered. He could also pretend he wasn’t back in San Antonio, that he wasn’t that same kid. Having Jared across from him both reinforced and negated that point, because when they fell into comfortable banter, it was like slipping into an old shoe. But seeing Jared right there, tall and broad shouldered, matured and handsome, only reminded him that they both were different from those days.
“So you read the article?” Jensen mumbled into his coffee cup.
Jared smirked. “Yeah, I did. You’re quite charming when you’re angry.”
He nearly snorted coffee. “Should’ve heard my management bitch me out.”
With an easy smile, Jared looked up to the waitress sliding their plates over the table. “Nah, it was just … it was you. Exactly how I remembered you.”
Jensen looked, too, smiling carefully when the girl’s eyes widened. “Hi,” he nodded when she didn’t immediately leave the table.
“Wow, oh, wow,” she mumbled, staring between Jared and Jensen. “Jared, I didn’t know you knew …”
Jared smiled again and nodded. “Yeah. It’s fine, Stacey. Not a big deal.”
“It kind of is a big deal.”
“You know,” Jensen started, knowing this scene too well and dealing with it many times over. “I could go for a refill on coffee.”
She nodded quickly, “Oh, yes, right, sure thing.”
Once she was gone, Jensen went right to his plate to eat his eggs. He reached for some water and realized Jared was just staring at him. He swallowed down his food and drink then rested his hands on the table, fork held tight in his grip. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Jared said with a shake of his head, and he dug right into his food.
Jensen squeezed the fork and watched Jared for a while until he went back to his own plate.
When Jensen had been in Richardson, he was a pretty popular kid. Well liked by many, appreciated for his talents in drama, glee, and cheerleading, respected by teachers for his quick mind and solid grades. At church, everyone loved his generosity as well as the small turn of humor he could display. He participated in more than enough gatherings at both school and church, and had never missed a major event. Even when he did his fair share of ditching class, smoking and drinking with friends in hiding places and wasn’t the most perfect little student or disciple, people who knew him, liked him.
It was his last homecoming, at age 16, when it all went downhill. Jim Rodgers was a long-time close friend who helped him spike the punch soon after they’d arrived. He was also the one who walked into the bathroom and caught Jensen kissing John, his unofficial date and boyfriend, and then stopped talking to him. Though he did talk to everyone else about it.
So, entering the gymnasium that night, decorated for all the dances it’d ever seen, wasn’t exactly easy for Jensen. He flashed back to that night and tensed from the memory; the shock in Jim’s eyes, compounded by both his and John’s fear. And while he told himself that was a lifetime and hundreds of miles away, he knew he was in the same exact situation when he spotted Jared across the way with a perfectly soft sweater that Jensen’s fingers suddenly twitched to touch.
It was even worse when Jared came over with a smile and gave him a seemingly innocent hug, one he’d given to anyone else he knew in the place.
Jared’s head pressed tight against his own, and Jensen could smell Jared, the cologne and slight scent of his skin, the bits Jensen had tasted all last night and early that morning, which only made things more difficult.
When Jared pulled back, he patted at Jensen’s shoulder with a smirk. “Nice vest, hotshot.”
Jensen playfully swatted at his face. “You jealous, teach?”
With mock disdain, Jared shot back, “Uh, I’m a school counselor.”
“Is that really better?”
Jared chuckled and pushed at his shoulder. And then they both turned when Genevieve and a few others appeared at their side. “Jensen, hi,” she smiled. “You enjoying yourself?”
“Yeah, it’s been going good,” he tightly smiled while looking among the group that was growing around them.
A guy stepped forward, pushing his hand into Jensen’s and shaking fast. “Hey, Jensen, how’re you doing? Long time no see.”
Lessons in public relations from early in his career kicked in and he decided to fake it for the rest of the night, just enough to survive and not totally ruin everything. He shook hands and pretended to be happy to see them all … Danneel, Austin, Chad, others he didn’t know a thing about. They asked him questions about Hollywood, movies, women he was dating. He couldn’t escape the barrage of queries or photos, and did his best to manage all the attention, so startling in this building where no one had paid him a second of mind back then.
He pretty much hated it.
Chad, obviously, was drunk. And he kept blabbering in Jensen’s face about Hollywood starlets. “Man, that Lisa Carson. I can’t believe you got her. Well, I mean, you’re a good looking dude now, so yeah, that’s awesome. But she’s one of the hottest out there, right? What about Megan Fox? Did you … you know, with her?”
Jensen downed the rest of his drink, slowly shaking his head. “No, I have no idea.”
“Megan Fox, from Transformers? She did some other shitty horror movies, too. All dark and sultry like Angelina Jolie. But younger.”
He cleared his throat. “Um, no, I never … you know, with her.”
Austin eased into the conversation, dropping an easy, “What about Sarah Smith? Heard you were bangin’ her now.”
Jensen coughed and turned for a second. He pushed a fist to his eye and then shook his head with a small smile. “No, sorry. Not banging Sarah Smith.”
Chad winked at him. “Weren’t you with her at Vibe the other day?”
“Yeah!” Austin pushed at Jensen’s arm. “And you were at the Coffee Hut with her last week.”
His mouth twisted. “How do you guys know so much?”
Chad shrugged. “The internet.”
Jensen found Jared at the makeshift bar and bumped their elbows together. “Where you been?”
Jared flicked an eyebrow and looked over with a tip of his head. “Watching from afar. Everyone’s in love with you.”
He chuckled, rubbing at the back of his head. “Yeah. Awesome.” After grabbing a fresh drink, he turned with Jared to watch the crowd. It was the first moment he had free from having all eyes on him, everyone waiting on his every word. He breathed in and let it out, instantly feeling a bit better.
“You’re having a good time,” Jared murmured, subtly leaning towards Jensen.
“Well, you look like it.”
He snorted and shook his head. “It’s called acting.” When Jared was silent, Jensen looked over and caught how he wouldn’t look at him, eyes roaming the room and fingers tight around his drink. “Alright, what is it?” Jared looked over with a flat face and Jensen tilted his head, keeping a critical eye on him. “You’ve been weird since this morning.”
Jared surveyed the crowd and shook his head. “No, it’s fine.”
“No, it’s not,” Jensen argued back, tugging on Jared’s elbow. “C’mon, man.”
He carefully pulled his arm back and drank before nodding. “I’m gonna catch Genevieve before she leaves.”
And then he walked off, and Jensen watched as Jared happily hugged her and began talking easily to everyone else in her group.
When Jensen stepped outside to smoke, he was equal parts happy and tense to find Jared leaning against a wall, doing the same thing. He tapped the butt of his cigarette against his leg and stepped up to Jared, ready to ask if he was okay when Jared snorted.
“You’re done with your adoring public?”
Jensen all but glared in return, hearing how the humor was edged out by something stronger. “Okay, what’s your problem?”
Jared rolled his eyes and chuckled. “Dude, I’m just joking. Someone’s a little too tense.”
He nodded with hard eyes. “Yeah, you.”
Jensen reached out with a hand to hold Jared’s neck with an easy, “Hey, c’mon.” But Jared slipped away and tossed his cigarette to the grass as he walked towards the door. “So, what?” Jensen asked loudly, making Jared stop. “You’re back around all the beauty queens and the football team, and you’re gonna ignore me?”
“Hey, you were the one who was all ‘be cool, but not popular. Just be you.’ And here you are, running around like the damn Prom King.”
Jensen started to spin away, anger building, but instead he faced Jared while nearly pleading. “Like I want to do this? You think I wanted to come back here and deal with this?”
Jared shrugged with a twisted smile. “Then why did you?”
Jensen rolled his eyes.
The words came quickly and bitterly, getting Jensen right in the gut. “For the photo ops, huh? You’re not even remotely close to the person I knew back then.”
On reflex, Jensen shot back, “What did you even know about me, huh?”
Jared stalked right up to him, shaking his head. “I knew enough. More than everyone in there. But you’re freewheeling and talking with everyone and – ”
“You even hear what they’re talking to me about?” he cut in with a harsh hand towards the building. “Austin asked if I was banging Sarah Smith. And Chad asked me what Paris Hilton’s like in bed.”
“Yeah, I heard.”
“Then what’s the problem? Disappointed I couldn’t say yes and reveal some seedy secrets?”
“What? No. Are you …” Jared closed his eyes for a brief moment before shaking his head. “You’re fucking kidding right now, right?
He took a long, loud breath and finally threw his arms into the air between them. “What the hell do you want from me, Jared?”
His voice rose to meet Jensen’s. “Nothing! God! Why does it have to be about what someone wants out of you?”
“Because everyone wants something. Everyone inside wants to say they talked to me. That we had Gym together. Or English. What’re you looking to say?”
“You know what … just, fucking stop the movie star bull shit.” He moved closer, stabbing fingers into his own chest. “I don’t give a shit that you’re famous. Okay? I couldn’t care less if you were working the fucking general store and selling cigarettes to high school kids who were too scared to talk to anyone.” Jensen felt the intended dig and flinched, taking a step back as his face fell, but Jared went right on. “I give a shit that you came back and you talked to me. That you wanted to be around me. I care about the you I knew back then.”
They stared, far too long for Jensen to stand, and when he finally spoke, his voice broke. “What do you want from me?”
Jared answered in the same desperate manner. “I want you.” Then his face tightened and he turned away, taking a few steps to put space between them. He scrubbed hands over his face then over his head, finally settling in his hair as he looked back at Jensen, seeming all kinds of embarrassed. “And you’re going back tomorrow. So … there it is.”
Jensen continued staring, unable to process the moment or consider all of Jared’s words. In just one conversation, he went from wanting to tell Jared to fuck off to wanting to grab hold of him and never let go. But the strained face and words were twisting in his gut, scaring him more than anything he felt all those years ago when Jared crept up and slid right into his life and forced him to trust again. In the only way he knew how, Jensen released a breath and spoke with a hint of sarcasm. “You been waiting a decade to tell me that?”
Jared looked over with a confusion but also keeping a close eye on Jensen.
“You been hanging out in the woods all this time, waiting for me to show up?” The corner of Jared’s mouth tipped up and Jensen chuckled with nerves. “That’s fucking creepy, dude.”
Jared rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t waiting in the woods, you dick.”
The door clanging open distracted them, drawing their attention to Chad and a few others that Jensen recognized but couldn’t name. Chad tripped for a second then righted himself with a laugh. “Hey, Hollywood!”
“Oh, fuck me,” Jensen muttered before righting himself into a friendly manner.
“Man, I was wondering where you two’ve been.” He came between them, a hand tangling in each of their shirts while he smiled wide. “We’re going down to The Station. Get us some more drinks, having us some more laughs.” Then he turned to Jensen and tugged. “You’re coming, right? Gonna tell us more of your L.A. stories?”
Jensen carefully dislodged Chad’s hand from his shirt and put on as easy of a smile as possible to bypass the tension still floating between him and Jared and Chad being a pain. “I’d love to, but I don’t think I can make it.”
“What?” Chad shrieked. “I see you doing it up all night and day back in Cali. You can’t come have a drink with some old friends.”
His eyebrows went up, as did his anger, and he was close to start arguing with Chad. But Jared stepped up with a smile, pulling Chad away while patting at his chest. “We’ll be there. I’ll convince him, don’t worry.”
Chad nodded and grabbed Jared’s shoulder. “You better.” Then he turned to Jensen with a lopsided grin. “Man, you turned into some hot shit. Who’da thought, huh?”
Jensen cleared his throat and nodded, still trying so hard to repress the instinct to yell and mock and berate them all for giving him so much adoration now when they paid so little attention then. Next he knew, it was just him and Jared again, and that thought of past and present played through his head and something warmed, knowing that Jared was there then and really wanted to be now.
Except Jared looked terribly uncomfortable, keeping his eyes on the group leaving and crossing his arms against his chest.
He cleared his throat and nodded at Jared. “We gonna talk about this seriously now?”
“The bar? I was just getting rid of him. I’m not gonna make you go.”
Jensen tipped his head to the side. “No, Jared. I’m talking about us.” Jared looked to the ground and Jensen could tell with the rise of his shoulders that he was uneasy and taking too many deep breaths. “So … you’re upset that I’m leaving?”
Jared looked up with a high eyebrow. “That okay? You gonna crack a joke about it again?”
“Fuck,” Jensen murmured to himself. “No, I won’t. I’m sorry that I did.”
He dropped his shoulders and arms, stuffing his hands into his pockets and nervously pushing them out and in. “Okay, so, yeah. I’m pissed you’re leaving. You finally come back, and … everything from yesterday, this morning … you’re still going back without any plans to ever be around.”
Jensen nodded then ducked his head to grab a new cigarette. He absolutely understood Jared’s point, even when he wasn’t sure what the right response should be.
Jared nervously chuckled. “I mean, it’s not like I expected this. That we’d see each other and sleep together and just be hanging like there was no problem.”
“I didn’t either,” Jensen mumbled as he stuffed the cigarette back in the pack, not really wanting to smoke but not knowing what else to do. He went on with more strength in his voice. “I didn’t come here to just mess around and go home. I didn’t expect this either.” Jared blinked slowly, meeting his eyes and quickly looking away. Jensen moved closer with a hand going up for Jared’s arm but not making it when Jared leveled his gaze at him. “Jared, you know what it was like back then? No one else even cared. And then you came around and just pushed yourself in. In a way I never imagined was possible. I cared about you so much.”
“And then you left,” Jared said icily. “You finally tell me what’s going on, and then you leave without saying a word. I just wanted one more minute to tell you – ” and then he stopped short, mouth twisted and eyes closing.
Jared was quiet for a bit longer than Jensen expected him to be, but he waited, wanting Jared to finish the statement. When he didn’t, Jensen prodded. “Tell me what?” Jared cleared his throat and took a step away and to the side while pushing a hand through his hair. “Jared,” Jensen pleaded, stepping with him. “I’m here now. Tell me what?”
His hand splayed over his chest and his eyes went soft with his voice. “You meant a lot to me, too, you know?”
“Okay,” Jensen nodded with a comforting voice. “Alright. We got that out of the way.”
Jared chuckled through more nerves and looked away as Jensen fell into the same movement.
Jensen pushed a hand into the air and sighed. “I can’t promise you anything. And I don’t want to, because I don’t want to hurt you.”
He shook his head. “What’re you talking about?”
“I don’t know,” Jensen said on a pathetic laugh. “Come back with me? Wait for me? Don’t give up? I don’t know what you need me to say.”
“Say for what?”
“For now. To make this right.”
He choked on a rough laugh. “I don’t want you to make it right. Jesus, back then you were all about just doing whatever you wanted whenever. And now you’re trying to be this upstanding celebrity. Just be you. Be the guy who talks to me and tells me when I’m being an ass and doesn’t put up with doing shit he doesn’t want to. Stop trying to be someone else.”
Jensen flashed over the last year and all the parts he’d had to play for the cameras and interviews and auditions. The boyfriend, the celebrity, the party goer, client, boss, good guy, humble artist. He suddenly leaned back to the wall, bending over with hands on his thighs, fingers kneading. “God, you don’t know how tired I am of it all. It’s so fucking hard, just always being on. Never being me.” Jared moved close with a gentle hand against Jensen’s head then slipping down to his neck. Jensen looked up and shook his head with a twisted smile. “You say anything about my being weak, I will punch you in the mouth.”
Jared laughed, really laughed, and his eyes went wet and nearly closed. As Jensen stood up, Jared leaned in and kissed him, but unlike any time before, when they were in school or in the past day. It was soft and slow, meaningful with the press of his mouth and the gentle movement of his hands holding Jensen’s face. And Jensen practically melted into it, hardly caring that they were outside with his back pressed into a brick wall, because Jared was right there, pressed into him.
Back in his room, Jensen paid Jared the same attention, moving slowly and seemingly careful of what edges of Jared’s skin he touched and which patches he kissed.
Bracketing Jared’s head with his elbows pressed into the mattress, he kissed with a lazy tongue, tasting every inch of Jared’s mouth as he crept inside. He swallowed Jared’s moans, brought even more with every movement. And Jared wrapped his arms around Jensen, held him tight so that the drag of their bodies lasted from chest to thigh, mouths still working, only stopping to breathe.
Jensen kept moving, sliding at a measured pace, memorizing the feel of Jared inside and out. When Jared’s legs wrapped around him, opening up while pulling him closer, they stopped kissing and just rested their foreheads together. Jensen’s eyes opened and closed on occasion, unable to take the intensity in Jared’s look, but returning to it every few moments and cataloging it, tagging it with that moment to never forget.
Near the end, as Jared got even more intense and nearly begged for Jensen, he came to realize how much he needed in that moment, and needed Jared there with him. Like connecting the dots from his youth, validating the way he was back then, introverted and angry and unwilling to reveal himself. Because Jared walked right in and let him be whatever he wanted, as long as it was real. And that was exactly what he needed in his life now; something real.
Just like when they were together, tangled in the bedsheets and panting through their orgasms, touching from head to toe and refusing to move despite the sweat and heat and need to breathe.
Jensen woke to an empty bed. He felt the burn of being alone and wondered if that was Jared’s way of exacting revenge, opening up and admitting his feelings before running off.
He stared at the open space then up to the ceiling for only a split second each until he rolled off the bed and hurried to the bathroom. When he spotted Jared in his boxers, he readied himself to yell and chew him out for leaving. But then he found Jared’s curious gaze and tiny smile. Jensen shook his head and sighed with a matching smile. Jared pulled him in and kissed him, hands roaming his bare back beforeccrushing their bodies together.
He slid his coffee cup to the edge of the table, waiting on a refill, but didn’t take his eyes off Jared.
“But when I asked her where she even got the shit, it’s like she went completely sober.”
Jensen smirked as he pushed his scrambled eggs around to gather up bits of homestyle potatoes with them. “Please tell me you called it ‘shit.’ Nothing else will make this story worth it.”
Jared rolled his eyes but then opened his hands on either side of his plate. “Just let me …” When Jensen nodded to let Jared go on, he did. “So, I ask her about the pot, she gets quiet, and then asks, ‘Mr. P., where do you get yours? I bet it’s the good stuff. You’re always smiling.’”
“You got some real classy kids, man.” When the waitress topped off his mug, he offered a low, “Thanks,” then kept digging through his breakfast. From the corner of his eye, he caught Jared’s fork tapping at his plate and when Jensen looked up, Jared was wearing a strange expression. He finally saw the waitress milling at the edge of the table and he gave a tight smile. “Yeah?”
“I’m sorry to bug,” she started nervously.
Jensen cut right back in. “No, that’s fine. But, we’re eating right now,” and he gestured towards Jared with his fork and an odd smirk. “I can get you something when we’re done. I’ll even autograph the credit card slip.”
“No, yeah, of course, I’m so sorry,” she rattled on before turning and all but running back to the food counter.
“You’re a dick,” Jared said with a smile.
An eyebrow rose and he stared back.
“Sign the slip?”
“Someone’s got to.”
Jared rolled his eyes and kicked Jensen’s ankle.
“Ow! You fucker!” Jensen harped back as he slipped further into the booth and away from Jared. He even slid his plate and coffee with him. Jared moved down, too, and hooked his foot around Jensen’s. “Get offa me, asshole.”
He smirked when he caught Jensen’s complaints subsiding and all that remained was a tiny curl of his mouth.
Jensen’s phone rang and he groaned at the display before answering. “Better be good.”
“Better be at the airport,” Katie sing-songed.
He laughed uncomfortably and looked around Brewsters’, for the first time fully acknowledging anyone else in the place. Some people who were particularly painful to deal with at the reception were eyeing him. But when he answered, he looked straight to Jared. “What’s my chance of survival if I’m not?”
“Low. Very, very low.”
Leaning back in the booth, he arched his back into a stretch and smiled at Jared. “Then I’m most certainly there.”
Katie sighed. “God, you are a pain in my ass. Why’re you not there?”
“Would you believe me if I said I’ve been kidnapped and held against my will?”
A small chuckle came through. “In Little Texas? I absolutely would. Someone goin’ Deliverance on you.”
He smirked and drawled, “Well, if you really wanna know – ”
“Oh my God, I really don’t. When’re you coming home? That’s what we wanna know.”
There was a small moment, a sharp breath where he was going to say something cheesy like I’m already there, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. More than that, he couldn’t let Jared hear that and mock him relentlessly. “I don’t know.”
“They extending your little home tour?”
He looked up to Jared and smiled, “Something like that.”
“For how long?”
He shrugged before settling on, “Indeterminably.” And then he and Jared shared an impressed look at the word until Jared chuckled and went back to his plate.
“God, I hate when you’re smug. You’re smug and laid. I hate you.”
Jensen laughed. “You jealous?”
“Only a little.”
He caught how Jared was working through his breakfast but also shooting quick looks at him, like he was trying to not be in on the conversation but couldn’t not be. Jensen tipped his head and Jared kept his eyes up for a few moments, long enough for them to share a soft, knowing smile, and Jensen chuckled while scratching at his head. “You should be. He’s a cool guy.”