Movie Prompt: Honey I Shrunk the Kids
Word Count: 10k
Summary: When Jensen had hoped for an adventure in the town he'd just moved to, spending a day shrunk in his neighbor's house wasn't exactly what he had in mind.
Notes: Two summers ago, I watched Honey I Shrunk the Kids and thought it would make an excellent premise for the crackiest J2 fic ever. I finally got around to writing it
From somewhere below, Jared can hear the sounds of utter chaos; the smoke alarm is beeping, something is clanging, and Sadie won’t stop howling. Jared lifts his head blearily from his pillow for a split second before groaning loudly and diving beneath the covers to try and muffle some of the noise. It sounds like his dad’s pancake maker has gone and burnt breakfast for the millionth time, and the thought of cornflakes again makes Jared never want to get up. Plus it’s summer vacation, and he thinks he saw his clock displaying an ungodly hour just a second ago.
His mother, evil she-demon that she is, chooses right at that moment to pound heavily on his door, startling Jared so much that he tumbles out of bed with a thud.
“Jared, get up!” she thunders, her voice tight with annoyance, which is practically a gift-wrapped invitation to stay in bed all morning.
“Okay, okay,” he mumbles, pulling himself back onto his bed with no minimal effort. Within seconds, he’s asleep again; noise or no noise, Jared does not let anything keep him awake when he doesn’t want to be. Excluding his mother, who does not take shit from anyone, let alone her children, and ten minutes of uninterrupted sleep later, she charges into his room, yanks on his window shades so they’ll thwip up, and turns his light on, all the while ignoring his grunts of protest.
“When I said up, I meant now,” she says sternly. “Don’t make me come in here again.” Jared blinks pathetically against the light and lobs his pillow somewhere in the vicinity of the door, which thankfully goes unnoticed. He contemplates ignoring her, but she’s in a mood and the last time he tried barricading his door shut to get another hour of shut-eye, she just put his father’s invented alarm clock from hell outside of his room until he couldn’t stand it any longer. She still has about fifty of those prototypes hidden away for special occasions.
It takes him five more minutes until he feels human enough to stumble downstairs. Sure enough, the kitchen is filled with the fetid smell of burnt plastic, and his father is frantically waving a towel underneath the smoke detector so it will stop beeping.
“When are we gonna give up on this pancake thing, dad?” Jared asks grumpily, noticing that the cereal box is out on the table, along with the milk. His kid sister’s already eating her breakfast, studying some sort of book at the same time. Jared wrinkles his nose--he’s tried time and time again to remind her that it’s summer, but she never listens to him.
“Just a little glitch,” his father huffs as soon as the detector shuts off, leaning heavily against the wall. “Nothing a little tinkering won’t fix.”
“That’s what you said last week,” Jared complains, plopping heavily into a chair.
“Dad’s scientific process is sound,” Megan chirps. “All the greatest inventions took a long time to perfect.”
“If you try to tell me about the lightbulb one more freakin’ time,” Jared says, narrowing his eyes.
“That’s enough,” his mother scolds, hopping into the room as she tries to pull on her heel. “Jared, you know not to tease your sister.”
“Yes, ma,” Jared says, rolling his eyes as Megan sticks her tongue out at him.
“Gerald,” his mother says, rushing to grab her phone and her keys from the counter, “my taxi’s here. You sure you’ve got everything under control?”
“I always do,” his father says, his usual response to the question.
His mother just sighs and drops a kiss on Megan’s forehead and then on Jared’s. “Behave,” she says. “No more ice cream fights inside. Listen to your father and don’t get in trouble. I’ll be back on Monday.”
“Calm down,” his father placates, placing a hand on her shoulder and kissing her cheek. “I’ve got everything under control.”
“You always say that,” Jared’s ma says, heaving another sigh. “And then I come home to find my table scorched or my hydrangeas blown up--”
“I promise,” his father laughs. “No fiascos this time.”
Jared makes a little disbelieving sound that no one hears. Sure. No fiascos. What a freakin’ lie.
Next door, Jensen is having an equally bad summer morning as he tries in vain to come up with anything that will convince his parents that their RV vacation is the worst idea they’ve had since they decided to move to this stupid little town. He’s hiding in his room, away from his father’s queries about how his tryouts for the football team went (they sucked, glad you asked). His chair is propped against the doorknob as a precaution, even though he’s pretty sure his parents are busy packing, and he’s thinking about going back to sleep except the racket next door could practically wake the dead. He considers throwing a baseball at their house in protest, but he’d rather not end up grounded for the rest of the summer, thanks.
Instead, he hurls himself onto his bed and flicks on his laptop. Mac is outside, playing with Barbies or something, and he watches her idly as his computer boots up. It doesn’t take long for him to lose himself in status updates and sports news, and when he looks up next to stretch, Mac isn’t alone anymore. The little geeky neighbor-kid, Megan or Marcie or something, is showing her what she's holding, blinking owlishly through her coke-bottle glasses and smiling shyly.
Jensen groans under his breath, because he knows his kid sister, and even though there isn’t much he wouldn’t do for her, it’s pretty much fact that she can be a little bitch if she wants to be. Right now, her lip is curling in a way that spells danger, and sure enough, Jensen sees her take the--is that a rock?--from Megan’s (Maribeth’s?) hand only to fling it into the fence with a laugh.
Jensen winces as he sees his sister’s smirk widen when the rock cracks in two. Megan looks devastated, even behind her huge glasses, as she rushes over and cradles her broken toy like it’s an injured puppy. Jensen doesn’t have to see her to know she’s crying as she runs back to her own house.
For a second, Jensen thinks about ignoring what just happened--they’re new to the neighborhood, his sister’s still incredibly mad that they had to leave their old life behind--but he really feels like too much of an asshole, so, risking being discovered by his parents, he unblocks his door and thunders down the stairs.
Mac is sitting just as contentedly as she was before the neighbor-girl came over, brushing her Barbie’s hair with a tiny comb. She doesn’t even look up when Jensen stalks through the grass to get to her.
“What do you want?” she asks, her voice flat.
“Jesus, Mac, could you have been more of a jerk just then?” he snaps, grabbing her arm to haul her to her feet roughly. She lets out a little shriek of protest and digs her nails into his skin hard enough to make him let go.
“Ow, Jensen,” she whines, glaring at him. “What was that for?”
“Don’t give me that bull--”
“I’ll tell mama you were swearing again!” she threatens, eyes wide.
“--crap,” he says, quickly changing course. “I saw what you did to that neighbor’s toy.”
Mac’s lower lip immediately begins to wobble. “It was a stupid rock, not a toy!” Mac says. “And she started it. She told me my Barbie was a sexist symbol of what feminism has been trying for decades to eliminate.” She repeats the words with quote-y fingers, stumbling a little, which indicates that she’s rehearsing them from memory.
“Doesn’t mean you have to break it in half. She looked really upset, you little brat. This is why you don’t have any friends here!”
Mac’s eyes immediately fill with tears. “Don’t say that. That’s not nice. I just wanna go home.”
“You are home now,” Jensen says harshly. “This is home. And you gotta apologize to her right now.”
“I don’t wanna,” she says, and then she’s off like a shot, darting around the house. She knows that if she goes inside, Jensen will just tell their mama, and she’ll be in deep shit then, so she skirts around their packing efforts. Unfortunately for her, Jensen used to play this game with Josh, so he knows all of the tricks, and it isn’t long before she’s struggling in his grasp.
“You go apologize, and I won’t tell mom,” he wheedles. “Promise. But I’m not getting a bad reputation around here because you can’t play nice. Besides, Dad works for this guy’s company, remember? He can’t lose another job.”
“He won’t get fired because I broke his kid’s stupid toy,” Mac says petulantly, but she stops kicking at his shins.
“You never know,” Jensen says darkly, even though he agrees with her. It’s just, he’s noticed the kid next door, the one who looks to be his age, and he really doesn’t want to have a bad first impression because his sister’s a terror. Speaking of which, his cheeks heat a little bit when he realizes that he’ll probably come face-to-face with his neighbor--Jared, he knows, definitely Jared--if he goes through with making Mac apologize.
Sure enough, when they ring the doorbell, it’s Jared who answers, running a hand through his messy hair and blinking in this totally confused way.
“Ye-es?” he asks slowly, looking at Jensen, then at Mac, then at Jensen again.
“My little sister has an apology to make,” Jensen says. “To yours.”
Jared quirks an eyebrow, looking all of a sudden more alert. “Did something happen? She tore through here like ten minutes ago, but the little geek never tells me anything.”
“Kinda,” Jensen says with a half-shrug.
“She’s upstairs, I think,” Jared says, motioning behind him. “In the attic, probably. That’s where she goes when she’s having a temper tantrum.”
Jensen has to give Mac a push before she half-heartedly starts up the steps, leaving Jensen alone in the foyer. “Sorry ‘bout this,” Jensen says sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. “Girls can be little bitches.” Immediately, Jensen wishes he could take the words back, but Jared smiles wide and easy.
“Tell me about it,” he says, stepping backwards so Jensen can come fully inside to wait for his sister. “Megan’s made about half of her class cry.”
“C’mon,” Jensen scoffs. “No way your sister made anyone cry. She looks like a leaf could knock her flat.”
Jared’s laugh is loud and big, and it instinctively makes Jensen smile. “Well, yeah,” he concedes, “but she’s convinced she’s the smartest person in the universe, and God help you if you want to argue with her.”
“Yeah, I know what that’s like,” Jensen agrees, huffing a little amused noise. “But, seriously, Mac’s usually not this bad. She’s just pissed because we picked up and moved.”
“I’d say I know how that feels but I’ve lived in this house my entire life,” Jared says, looking sympathetic. “Still, it’s gotta suck being the new kid.”
“Uh, definitely,” Jensen agrees. “The only people I’ve met all month are twice my age.”
“Please tell me you haven’t spoken with Mr. Beaver down the road?” Jared groans. “That guy’s crazy.”
Jensen smiles even wider--he has met Mr. Beaver, and he has stories of his own--which makes this whole exchange a whole lot less awkward and more friendly than he ever could have hoped.
He gets so engrossed in the ensuing conversation that he forgets why he came over in the first place.
That? That was his first mistake.
Megan knows that she’s not supposed to be in the attic with her father’s unstable machines, but it’s the only place she really feels herself, surrounded by wires and half-finished inventions. She likes to run her hands over what her dad’s created and imagine inventions of her own, turning hypotheses over in her head. It’s really the only thing that ever calms her down.
Her geode, which had been really pretty and a present from her father, was now irreparably smashed by the girl next door. This will teach her mother not to tell her to be friendly to their new neighbors--she’d known before she’d tried it that it was an awful social experiment. The broken halves of her geode now lie on her dad’s current invention, his shrink ray, the one that he’s been working on for almost three years, and she wanders around the attic for a while, seeing if her dad has started work on anything new. When she first came up, she’d allowed herself five minutes of moping in the corner, covering her ears and crying about her broken geode, before she made herself stop.
In the background, the shrink ray’s humming, still on, so she knows her dad was working on it before he rushed to the office, putting Jared in charge and for a second she wonders if it’s getting any better. It had been making a lot of noise a couple of minutes ago but she’d been too upset to care.
Then something catches her eye, and she slips from her chair to investigate, because her dad’s had a ratty old “thinking” couch in the attic for as long as she can remember and it’s not where it used to be. She does a slow circuit trying to see if he’s crammed it into a corner to make more room, but she still can’t find it.
When she goes over to where it used to be, something crunches under her foot. Immediately she thinks she stepped on a bug, but she can’t see anything when she moves backwards a step or so, so she gets on her knees to investigate. She doesn’t even hear the sigh of someone as they enter the room.
“My brother made me come here to say I’m sorry,” the intruder says, and Megan doesn’t even look up.
The newcomer huffs, tapping her foot impatiently. “I said I was sorry! Didn’t you hear me? What are you doing, anyways?”
“Trying to figure out why my dad’s couch is the size of an insect,” Megan murmurs, brushing a tiny cushion with her fingertip. She knows now that it’s Mackenzie, the neighor who broke her geode in the first place. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.
“What?” Mackenzie asks, kneeling on the ground besides her. “Where did you get that tiny couch?”
“My dad’s invention shrunk it,” Megan says simply, wondrously, and then with a heavy hum, something warm hits her, making her body tingle and stretch, the oddest sensation. Next to her, Mackenzie lets out a short surprised shriek, and when Megan opens her eyes again, feeling normal, she realizes that the couch is no longer small.
In fact, it’s just the right size, even if it is broken in half.
Jared has been a brother long enough to know that when someone’s screaming, nothing is okay, no matter what. He’s in the middle of telling Jensen about his school, trying to ignore the pleasant fluttering of his heart, when he hears it, and he groans before he can help himself.
“Great,” he hears Jensen mutter behind him, and they don’t even discuss it--they take the stairs two at a time. Jared is not taking the heat for his sister getting in a slap-fight, so he leads Jensen up to the attic for back-up should the situation call for it. He doesn’t know Jensen’s sister at all, and Jensen only a little bit better, so he’s not sure what to expect when he busts through the door.
He certainly isn’t ready to find nobody in the room--no fights, no overturned furniture, nothing. Come to think about it, where is the furniture?
Jensen stops short behind him and peers over his shoulder. “I thought they were up here?” he says. “Isn’t that what you said?”
“I dunno,” Jared says, perplexed. “She spends more time in this attic than she does in her own room. I just assumed.”
He turns to look at Jensen, and the only warning he gets before things go awfully wrong is this look of surprise on Jensen’s face, wide-eyed and incredulous. And then something’s happening to his body--not painful, but not comfortable, and his skin feels too big for a quick second before things right themselves. When he gets his senses back, he thinks he must have blacked out and hit his head or something, because what he’s seeing doesn’t make sense.
“Fascinating,” Megan says, coming up to look at him. “The displacement of our size did nothing to our perspective or relative height.”
“What the fuck?” he hears, and he almost thinks he said it, because it’s exactly what he’s been thinking since Megan appeared out of nowhere.
“We’re shrunk!” someone shrieks, and Jared remembers that Megan wasn’t alone up here and that she hadn’t been the one to yell and cause him and Jensen to come up to find out what happened in the first place.
“That’s impossible,” Jensen scoffs, and then he looks at Jared for support. “Right?”
Jared can’t do anything but gape like a fish, because Mackenzie is right. He can see the looming height of the door, the knob miles away, and the wood grain of the floor is so deep, he’s standing in a groove as wide as his forearm.
“No, the technical definition is that it’s improbable,” Megan pipes up. “Not impossible, because we’ve obviously been shrunk. To about one one-hundredth of our original size, if my estimate is correct.”
“Listen to what you’re saying,” Mackenzie says, almost hysterically. “We’re tiny! No one’s ever going to find us!”
Megan purses her lips in thought and Jensen looks pale. “How did this happen?” he asks faintly, looking to Jared then to Megan as though they’re behind the whole mess.
“My dad,” Jared says. “He’s been working on a shrink ray.”
“Your dad,” Jensen repeats slowly, “has been working on a shrink ray?”
“It doesn’t work!” Jared defends hotly.
“Obviously it does!” Mackenzie interjects. “We’re as big as ants! Maybe even smaller!”
“His inventions never work though,” Jared says, his heart racing.
“That’s not true,” Megan says thoughtfully. “He did get quite a lot of money for his runaway alarm clock.”
“This is not an alarm clock!” Jensen says in this panicked voice that makes Jared’s heart start racing.
Megan continues as though she didn’t hear him in the first place. “My geode must have concentrated the laser in a way that made the energy displacement strong enough to start shrinking things. I can’t believe dad didn’t think of this before.”
“The real question, Meggie,” Jared says slowly, feeling more nauseous by the second, “is how he’s going to find us.”
Megan’s eyes go wide behind her glasses. “I hadn’t thought of that,” she admits.
Ten minutes later, they’re no closer to a contingency plan than they were before, considering that Jensen and Mackenzie want to be proactive about their situation, while Megan maintains that their best bet is to stay right where they are.
“What if your dad doesn’t notice?” Mackenzie demands. “We’ll starve to death. Or someone will step on us!”
“He’s had this couch longer than I’ve been alive,” Megan says cooly. “There’s no way he’ll miss that it’s suddenly gone from the attic. I hope he doesn’t yell at me too much when he realizes I stepped on it and broke it.”
“Where is your dad anyways?” Jensen demands, whirling on Jared. Now that they’ve found themselves in a problematic situation that’s entirely Jared’s family’s fault, he’s become a lot less easy to talk to.
“Um, the office,” Jared offers weakly. He’s obviously on Megan’s side, but he’s been quiet as the three of them argued. “He wasn’t supposed to go but he got an urgent phone call.”
“When is he coming back?” Mackenzie demands, pushing herself in front of Jensen.
“I dunno,” Jared says automatically. “Sometimes he stays there all night.”
“So we could stuck like this for hours,” Jensen says dully. “Great.”
Jared is about to interject, offer something upbeat or reassuring, even though it would be complete crap, when they hear something scuttle, loud and ominous.
“What was that?” Mackenzie asks, her voice an octave higher.
“According to the sound of its movements,” Megan starts, but Jared cuts her off with his hand.
“Don’t even finish that sentence, he warns, and then something black and huge skulks out of the corner.
“Holy fucking fuck,” Jensen says brokenly, as a giant rat tips its head and looks at them all.
“I guess Mom was right,” Megan says. “The attic does have rodents.”
“Will it eat us?” Mackenzie demands shakily. “Are we gonna die?”
“No one’s gonna die,” Jared says, but considering he feels like he just entered a fucked up alternate reality of Jurassic Park, it’s definitely a lie.
“Actually,” Megan says, “rats are omnivorous scavengers. It’s logical to think that it will want to consume us.”
The rat skitters forward, it’s whiskers twitching, and it’s fucking creepy, with its yellow teeth and deadened eyes. Jared thinks he’s about to get sick, and Mackenzie lets out a scream and starts to run.
It’s a useless endeavor, because the rat is obviously much bigger, and it lets out a huge squeak and starts to chase her.
“Everyone move!” Jared bellows, and they shoot off in opposite directions. He’s hoping that it will confuse the rat, but as he looks over his shoulder, he sees that it has a one track mind and is still following Jensen’s sister with intent. Jensen has changed course to try and get to her, and for a second, Jared’s sure someone is going to die, eaten by a rat in his attic.
And then Sadie bounds through the open attic door with a humongous bark. Jared doesn’t know if she heard the yelling or smelled the rat, but she immediately slides after it. The rat changes direction on a dime, avid to avoid the dog’s teeth.
Jared’s scared that Sadie will be bitten, but the rat doesn’t stay to fight, just scurries back to where it came from. Jared’s breathing a little heavy, both from adrenaline and his sprint for safety, but they haven’t scattered too far. He makes a move to get towards Megan, and Jensen’s pulling Mackenzie with him.
When they’re close enough to talk again, Mackenzie immediately pipes up. “I’m not staying here to be eaten by a rat,” she says. “We need to get out of here.”
Jared wholeheartedly agrees with her, but Megan, ever the voice of reason, isn’t all too optimistic. “The stairs are too big for us at our current height,” she points out. “We’d die from the impact if we tried to climb down.”
“Why don’t we just use the dog?” Jensen says, making Jared feel immediately useless. “We can grab onto her fur and let her take us back downstairs.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Megan muses. “In theory.”
“And Sadie hates it up here,” Jared says. “She’s not really allowed anyways.”
“So let’s get her to come over before she decides to leave,” Jensen says, which is a valid observation, because Sadie’s already padding towards the door.
Jared’s always been Sadie’s favorite, mostly because he slips her food when his parents aren’t looking, so even though he must be monumentally confusing her, she pauses when he calls her name at the top of his lungs in the wheedling tone he uses when he wants her to come to him.
She’s snuffling like she always does when she doesn’t know what Jared wants her to do, but she comes close enough that Jared can brush the fur of her paw. She’s obviously trying to find out where he’s hiding, and he tells her to stay even though he thinks he’s just confusing her further.
“Everyone grab on,” he says, taking lead for the first time, and Megan rolls her eyes at him.
“I’m not sure, Jared. The chances of this plan working--” she starts, pouting a little.
“I don’t want to hear it, Meggie. It’s either grab hold of her paws or stay up here with the hungry rat. It’s your choice.” He’s bluffing--there’s no way he’ll leave her alone in the attic, but she steps forward at the same moment Sadie takes a step back.
“We’ve gotta do it now, or she’s gonna leave,” Jensen says, pulling Mackenzie behind him to grab the fur of Sadie’s paw. Jared pushes Megan to where Mackenzie is, making sure she has a good grip before he takes hold himself. They’re thankfully not heavy enough to pull Sadie’s hair out by hanging on it, and she doesn’t seem to notice, doesn’t even do a full body shake before she starts trotting out of the attic and down the stairs.
It’s a bumpy ride, that’s for sure, and damn hard to keep his grip. Jared has locked his knees as best he could around the bones in Sadie’s foot as he keeps an eye on his sister. Her and Mackenzie are faring slightly better, resting on Sadie’s toes while he and Jensen are anchored to the back of her ankle. They get to the second floor landing and then to the first, and that’s when Jared thinks they’re going to be okay.
Of course that’s when everything goes wrong.
Sadie must smell something or sense someone coming, because instead of maintaining the slow trot she’s been using for the past couple of minutes, she stops, sniffs the air, and then takes off like a bullet.
“Sadie--bad--dog!” Jared yells, but she doesn’t listen to him, and when she careens around the corner of their living room, it’s too much effort to hold on any longer. Jared feels his hands slip and then he’s falling into the carpet with a loud grunted exhale.
“Sadie, come back!” he calls, too panicked for his own liking, but she’s gone, off to the other side of the house.
“Ow,” someone says, and Jared whips around to see Jensen, just barely taller than the carpet fibers, rubbing the crown of his head.
“Are you okay?” Jared asks awkwardly.
“Fine,” Jensen replies tersely, and then asks, “Mackenzie?”
Something in Jared’s stomach drops to the tips of his toes when he realizes that he doesn’t see his sister anywhere.
“Meggie?” he calls, all too aware of the look that overtakes Jensen’s face. “Meggie, are you okay?”
Jensen starts yelling then, too, and for a few minutes, that’s all they do until they’re out of breath from the screaming.
“Great,” Jensen says. “Just great. How am I going to explain this to my mom? If we even survive to get big enough to talk to our parents again, that is.”
“My dad will figure out what happened,” Jared says, as confidently as he can given the situation. “He’ll be able to fix this.”
“He’s the one who got us here in the first place,” Jensen fumes.
“Don’t,” Jared says sharply, because honestly, it’s not his father’s fault. Sure, he built the thing, but Meggie’s not really allowed in the attic, and Jared should never have let Mackenzie go up there to find her in the first place. “Don’t blame my dad. It was a freak accident.”
“More freak than accident,” Jared hears Jensen mutter, and anger sweeps through his belly, hot and overpowering.
“Don’t talk about my family like that,” he snarls, taking three sharp strides until he’s practically in Jensen’s face. He’s heard people call his family names all his life, and it’s never not made him feel like shit.
Jensen scoffs, but he doesn’t say anything further, just looks away from Jared before taking one giant step back. He’s quiet for a moment, and so is Jared, and the tension is thick in the air.
After what seems like hours of being on edge, Jared finally reins in his temper enough to grit out, “We should find Megan and Mackenzie, don’t you think? Or at least try instead of arguing all day.”
Jensen’s scowl is practically murderous. “That’s a great idea,” he says sarcastically. “Where should we look first? Seeing as it will probably take us all day to get to the end of the room.”
It takes all of Jared’s willpower not to bite out an angry comment. “Sadie usually goes to the back porch when she runs off like that. To look outside at whatever startled her.”
“Thank God! You’re a dog whisperer.”
“It’s a better idea than you have,” Jared snarls. “And Meggie’s smart. She’ll stay put as long as it’s safe.”
“Well then lead the way, genius,” Jensen sneers.
There is absolutely no way Jared can answer that without hauling off and punching Jensen in the face, so he turns stiffly and begins to walk, resisting the urge to make sure that Jensen’s following him. If he wants to stay behind and be lost, that’s his own prerogative.
Jared soon finds out that walking on carpet when you’re an inch tall is a lot harder than expected. He keeps getting his foot caught, stumbling to his knees a couple of times, and it’s strenuous work navigating the little divots in the floor. He’s yearning for the hardwood of the kitchen, which they’ll have to cross to get to the back porch, but no matter how far they go, they never seem to be getting any closer.
They’ve been walking two hours (and really, two hours? Where on earth is Jared’s dad?) when Jensen breaks the silence with a heavy sigh.
“I’m sorry, okay?” he offers, more hostile than Jared would like but still a clear apology. “It’s just, I never expected to be shrunk today and on a search and rescue for my sister.”
Jared pauses, taking a deep breath. He doesn’t look at Jensen as he responds, “I thought we could be friends when we met this morning. Apparently I’m an awful judge of character.”
“Dude, come on,” Jensen complains, and Jared hears him struggle through the carpet until they’re standing side by side. “I’m a good guy--I promise. I just don’t deal well under stress, never have. I’m sorry for being a douchebag.”
He sounds more sincere now and less of a jerk, so Jared rolls his apology over in his head before shrugging. “Fine, okay,” he says, finally slanting his eyes to the right so Jensen’s in his line of sight.
“We good now?” Jensen asks, almost hopefully.
Jared smiles, just a little. “I guess. Now stop being such a girl. We have a lot of walking to do.”
Jared expects his dad to be home any minute, but there’s no sign of him as the sunlight fades. The phone rings several times, but they’re not close enough to hear the tinny recording of the answering machine upstairs, so Jared has no idea what’s going on or if either of his parents are going to return at all this weekend. He never thought he’d begrudge his dad for staying at work overnight and leaving him alone to do whatever he wanted, but that’s exactly where he’s at right now.
Jared’s feet ache with the rub of the carpet and the walking they’ve been doing. They’re about ten feet from the kitchen floor, which seems to be about fifteen miles to him at this second, and the only light on in the entire house isn’t filtering into the family room at all.
He and Jensen haven’t really been talking since their half-hearted truce, and the silence is grating on Jared, making things worse. He doesn’t want to feel alone in this, so he takes a deep breath, and tries to ignore the way he feels like he’s about to make things a whole lot more awkward.
“Maybe we should keep going till we reach the kitchen and then stop,” Jared offers, his voice loud, even as the house creaks around them.
“What if Mac and Megan are in trouble?” Jensen demands. “Are we just gonna sit here all night?”
“If something is wrong, how are we gonna help them if we’re exhausted?” Jared asks, not looking at Jensen as he plows forward. “I don’t know about you, but just thinking about walking any further makes me want to vomit.”
Jensen is quiet, and when he responds, it’s less accusatory than what Jared was expecting. “She’s my little sister. I can’t stop thinking her and that rat and how close she was to dying.”
Jared’s stomach twists unpleasantly, and he stops suddenly so he can turn and have this conversation face-to-face. “The rat’s not coming downstairs, Jensen. She’ll be fine.”
“This is Texas,” Jensen says. “There are centipedes and spiders and who knows what else, and they all can get into the house.”
Jared bites his lower lip and tentatively places a hand on Jensen’s shoulder, “I know. But we’re gonna go crazy if we keep thinking about them in trouble. Megan’s smart, and Mackenzie’ll be fine. We just gotta keep telling ourselves that.”
Jensen laughs, but it’s not a happy sound. “You must be better at distracting yourself than I am.”
Jared shrugs, struggles over a particularly uneven patch of carpet, and responds, “Maybe.” They lapse into silence again, but Jared can see the furrow of Jensen’s eyebrows, and things feel somehow tenser than they did before.
“What does your mother do for a living?” he blurts, cringing a little as it hangs in the air.
“Um, she works part-time in a flower shop. Why?” Jensen says slowly.
“I thought you wanted a distraction?” Jared says hesitantly. “I thought we could talk, I guess? Stop thinking about Meggie and Mackenzie and how much trouble they could be in and just, you know, concentrate on ourselves? So we don’t go crazy.”
Jensen’s startled laughter is completely opposite from what came out of his mouth a couple of minutes before. “So you think this is the way to stop worrying? Twenty questions? Really?”
Jared shoves his hands in his pockets and hunches his shoulders, nearly tripping as he does so. “Right. Stupid idea. Sorry.”
Quiet settles again, and when Jensen speaks again, it comes as a surprise. “What does your mom do?” He still sounds like he’s not convinced, but it’s more than Jared was hoping for.
“She’s a teacher,” Jared answers, and he has to duck his head to hide his smile.
Link Part Two