By the time they reach the end of the family room, night has fully set, and Jared can only catch glimpses of Jensen’s face by the glow of a far-off street light through the window.
They’ve settled down into a worn patch of carpet just by the separation of the kitchen and the family room, and their talking has tapered off as they try to get comfortable enough to sleep. Jared’s been lying there for twenty minutes, and his mind is going a million miles a minute about Meggie and being shrunk and if they’re going to stay like this until they die. Plus, he’s freakin’ hungry and they haven’t been able to find any edible crumbs all day.
He can hear Jensen shifting next to him, rolling over and over, and curling up into himself from the cold of the air conditioning, and without warning, Jared picks up the thread of their prior conversation.
“Why did you move here?” he asks, his voice whisper-quiet as he turns over so he can look at Jensen’s back. The line of Jensen’s shoulders tense, and for a minute, Jared wonders if he’s even going to answer.
“My parents told Mac it was because my dad lost his job and this was the only place where he could find another one.” The way he says it is weird to Jared, and he shifts his hand to hold up his head to get a better look at Jensen’s profile.
“Your parents said?” he clarifies.
“But it was really because my dad caught me kissing Tom Welling behind the school when he came to pick me up,” Jensen says in a rush.
Jared feels blindsided, and words stick in his throat. After all, he doesn’t know Jensen that well, and...and something about that confession sends butterflies soaring in his stomach. “Oh,” he responds lamely.
Jensen turns over and fixes Jared with a mean glare. “It’s not contagious, you know? Being gay. And no matter what you think, I can’t help it. I’ve kissed girls too. It’s not the same. And you better keep any homophobic bullshit to yourself until we’re not stuck here together shrunk in your family room.”
“Whoa, whoa,” Jared says, holding one hand up placatingly. “I never said I had a problem with it.”
“This is Texas,” Jensen says bitterly. “I’m not retarded.”
“Seriously,” Jared says, getting a little annoyed. “I really don’t care.”
“Sure, say that now,” Jensen says bitterly. “I won’t be surprised if the whole school knows before I even start though.”
“I’m not that kind of person,” Jared says, wounded. “I wouldn’t do that. And maybe you should stop judging other people before you know them. I’m the freak--remember? No one’s going to take my word at school anyway, even if I did want to tell them.”
Jensen looks momentarily contrite, and maybe ashamed, but it doesn’t stop Jared from plowing onwards. “And maybe sometimes I think about it too. About being gay. About not liking girls. So you can take your condescending shit and shove it.”
Jared presents Jensen with his back then, turning over and staring at nothing in particular as his eyes prickle. He thinks that Jensen will apologize or offer an explanation, but nothing comes.
Eventually, he drifts off and dreams of Meggie running for her life.
When he wakes up the next morning, he considers leaving Jensen behind before his conscience lets him know he’d never be able to live with himself. Halfheartedly, he pokes Jensen until he’s awarded with a bleary-eyed glare, and then says blandly, “We’ve gotta get going.”
Jensen doesn’t answer, and Jared doesn’t know how he feels about that.
The first couple of hours are spent in silence, but they’re making good time. Jared is still fuming about what Jensen said the night prior, and he’s mad with himself for thinking that Jensen could be a friend. Jensen, for his part, keeps shooting Jared side-long glances that Jared definitely ignores. He doesn’t want another apology that means jack shit.
Things have been so monumentally boring since they woke up, that Jared almost kids himself into thinking that they’ll find Megan and Mackenzie without further incident
Just for once, Jared wishes things would go his way.
At first he doesn’t really register it for what it is, just hears the quiet mrao and ignores it. But when it comes again, he pauses, holding a hand out to stop Jensen’s progression.
“What was that?” he asks.
“I dunno,” Jensen says automatically, tiredly. “It’s your house.”
The noise comes again, more defined, and Jared feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
“Was that a cat?” Jensen asks.
“Fuck,” Jared says.
“You don’t have a cat, do you?” Jensen persists, and he’s sounding very alert now.
“No,” Jared says. “But Mr. Beaver does. And she likes to sneak in the house when someone leaves the door open.”
“Please tell me you closed the door behind me,” Jensen pleads.
“Judging from the cat sitting right there,” Jared says weakly, “I think I didn’t.”
Mr. Beaver’s tabby is languidly stalking through the sun patches on the ground, blinking widely. Jared wants to think that she won’t see them or smell them, but she’s getting inevitably closer.
“It’s gotta be scared of your dog, right?” Jensen says, taking a wide step backwards.
“She’s the devil,” Jared says. “Sadie won’t come near her.” He follows Jensen in his retreat, and, sensing her prey leaving, the cat bounds forward.
“Run!” Jensen yells, and Jared has a sense of deja vu, as they both take off, running in tandem in the same direction. Jared, unfortunately, gangly-limbed thing that he is, slides on the wood and falls head first as Jensen keeps going. He doesn’t have enough time to get up as the cat’s shadow covers him.
“Jared!” Jensen yells, as the cat lowers its head to stare directly at her quarry. Jared can smell the tuna on her breath, and he thinks he’s about to be eaten--become the first human fancy feast meal, but she bats him first, hard enough that he goes tumbling away from her.
“Over here, dumbass!” Jensen yells, and at first Jared thinks he’s being insulted right before his untimely demise, until Jensen clarifies, “Here, you fucking cat!”
It doesn’t work.
Jared gets batted again, pounced on by the cat and then flung away again by its paws, and this gives a whole new meaning to the word food fight. He can hear the squeak of Jensen’s sneakers on the ground, but the cat is too fast for him as it keeps swatting Jared further away.
This is fucking it Jared thinks as the cat lowers her head, mouth wide. Nothing is flashing before his eyes except a sheen of tears from the horrible stench of the cat’s breath, and Jared prays that it’s quick.
It is, but not in the sense that he’s thinking.
“Out, out, out!” someone thunders, and it’s not Jensen or Jared, but Jared’s dad, finally home from the office. The cat hisses and swipes her paw, but thankfully her claws miss Jared, who’s still cowering on the floor. His dad, larger than life, comes up and starts shooing the cat away with his hands.
“The kids know not to leave the door open so you can get in,” he mumbles, mostly to himself. “Jared!”
Jared has to cover his ears with his hands as his father’s voice rings through the room, but the cat is leaving, slinking away, and there’s the reprieve that Jared didn’t think was coming.
“Are you okay?” Jensen asks breathlessly, instantly there and kneeling next to Jared with a tentative hand out. “Are you hurt? I’m sorry I was so fucking useless--it was too fast, and--”
“I’m fine,” Jared says, blinking up at him. Jensen looks monumentally upset, pinched as though he’s trying to hide it, and it does a little to soothe Jared’s racing heart. “Just a little banged up. And don’t worry about it, man. Unless you’re some kind of secret track star, I don’t think you could have caught up to me in time.”
“I could have done something,” Jensen insists. “I just froze. You could’ve died, and I didn’t do anything.”
“Stop with the guilt already,” Jared says, gingerly getting to his feet. “Next time something wants to eat us, I’ll let it go after you. It’s only fair, seeing as my house is full of things that think we’d be a good lunch.”
Jensen laughs, a shaky sound, and steadies Jared with his hand as Jared struggles to his feet. The cat has pushed them into view of the back porch now, and something soars sickly in Jared’s stomach. He convinces himself that they’re too far away to be sure, but he can’t see a trace of Megan or Mackenzie anywhere.
“We should keep going,” Jared says. His dad has disappeared elsewhere in the house, still calling Jared’s name, and he hopes that his dad thinks to go to the attic and then is smart enough to notice what happened to his couch, or else they’re all completely fucked.
But, lo and behold, Jared’s dad must decide that his kids have gone somewhere (how he came to that conclusion considering Jared has no car and Meggie has no friends in the city lines, Jared will never know) and the shower comes on, water groaning through the pipes.
“We’re going to be stuck like this forever,” Jensen says, a little horrified.
“You’re really making me want to get off the ground here,” Jared says dryly. His entire body aches from his repeated encounter with the floor, and he’s still tired from his restless night on the scratchy carpet. The thought that their little adventure could be completely useless is catching up with him, especially since they still haven’t eaten. “You’re lucky I’m not a quitter,” Jared continues, but it feels weak even to his own ears. After all, giving up and waiting for his dad to realize they’re missing is starting to sound like a good plan the more he thinks about it. He slowly picks himself up, though, rotating his shoulders to try and relieve some of the ache that’s settled there.
“C’mon, man,” Jensen groans, bumping his shoulder into Jared’s like they didn’t spend the entire morning not talking, like they weren’t just attacked by a giant devil-cat. “If you talk about stopping, all I’ll want to do is stop, and then we’ll never find Mac and Megan and my mom will absolutely murder me.”
“See, I’m lucky there,” Jared says, and he starts moving, slowly at first, but picking up speed incrementally as his aches begin to fade. “My mom’ll just kill my dad instead.”
“Fuck you,” Jensen says, and Jared doesn’t respond as they move inexorably towards the back porch, closer now than ever before. Jared’s mom may have continuously moaned about her small kitchen, but it’s doing Jared a world of good right now.
“You’re a hard guy to figure out,” Jared says finally. “You run hot and cold...one minute we’re friends and the next you’re biting my head off.”
Jared sees Jensen wince out of the corner of his eye and he feels a tiny flare of victory. “I’m sorry,” Jensen offers quietly. “I was a dick.”
“Yeah, you were,” Jared says. “It’s kind of been a habit since we met.”
“I’ve always been an asshole. That’s why all of my friends are jerks too. We run together.” Jensen sounds self-deprecating and so depressed for a second, and Jared can’t help but feel a little sorry for him.
“The guy I first met wasn’t an asshole,” Jared says. “Maybe you’re growing out of it.”
“I doubt it,” Jensen says. “But if it means anything, I really do like you.” When Jared sharply turns his head at that statement, Jensen goes bright pink. “As a friend. In a completely straight way. Jesus. I’m sorry I keep fucking it up.”
“So stop,” Jared says blandly. “Fucking it up, I mean.”
“You gotta give me a little break, though,” Jensen says.
“If this is about how we’re shrunk, again, tough shit,” Jared says. “I already gave you your break there. Time for a new excuse.”
Jensen sighs deeply and slants Jared a look but Jared knows that Jensen isn’t as serious as he’s playing at. “Well, I did almost get eaten by a rat, I lost my sister, we’ve been hiking across the carpet like Sam and Frodo on their way to Mordor, and I almost saw you get murdered by a giant cat. Take your pick.”
That startles a laugh out of Jared, loud enough that Jensen starts laughing a little too. “The cat was after you were an asshole. Try again.”
“The rat, then. Definitely the rat. That thing was fucking disgusting.”
“Stop making me like you,” Jared says, smiling. “I’m not supposed to, remember? You’re the asshole.”
“Guess I’m full of surprises.”
It takes twenty minutes after the water stops sounding through the walls before they hear Jared’s dad’s panicked yell. Awful though it sounds, it’s almost the best thing Jared’s heard in a long time, especially when he thunders downstairs and starts tearing through his tool kit, unearthing a large magnifying class before he charges upstairs again.
“Looks like your dad found out why you’re not around,” Jensen says dryly, and he shares a small smile with Jared. The sun is shining through the wide bay windows, and he’s stripped off his outer shirt and tied it around his waist, comfortable in only his muscle undershirt. Jared appreciates the view as secretly as he can and doesn’t follow Jensen’s lead, because there’s no way he’s revealing his scrawny arms after this show of immodesty.
You’re not supposed to like him, Jared reminds himself, but fat load of good it does him. Jensen has made up for his earlier asshole act by being more chatty than he was the day prior, with little injections of sarcastic humor that have Jared unwillingly snorting with laughter.
“Now we just have to make sure he doesn’t squash us in his attempts at saving us,” Jared says, a little too late, earning a weird look from Jensen. “Although, he wouldn’t. I hope.”
“Stop talking,” Jensen says. “You’re gonna make me ralph. I’m freaking out enough as it is.”
He puts into words just what Jared’s been thinking secretly, because they’re fast coming up on the back porch, and Jared sees no sign of their sisters, even though Sadie’s idly lazing in a patch of sun. They’ve made good time, between the early start and the cat throwing Jared halfway across the kitchen, so with the sounds of Jared’s dad bumbling around upstairs, they approach their destination without further word.
By the time they’re at the door, Jared feels sick to his stomach with worry. He’d been so sure they’d be here, and now that they’re not, he’s afraid to even look at Jensen. Jensen, for his part, stands behind Jared and then immediately starts calling for his sister, more proactive than Jared can be in this moment.
Jared’s not expecting an answer, not after all that walking and the cat and everything, not after there’s no one there, so when one comes, he nearly falls over in surprise.
“It took you long enough,” Mackenzie says, creeping out from behind the potted plant.
“To be fair,” Megan says, behind her, “they did have to cover quite a lot of ground to get to us, if they fell off Sadie in the family room like I think they did.”
“Meggie,” Jared says weakly, wholly relieved. “You’re alive.”
“I’m not stupid enough to die in my own house,” Megan points out.
“Your brother nearly did,” Jensen says, flinging his arm around a struggling Mackenzie and giving her a noogie, looking happier than he has since the whole adventure began.
“Of course,” Megan says, but she grabs Jared’s hand as though to make sure he’s still breathing. “It’s always prudent to expect Jared to get into more trouble than is completely normal.”
“Hey!” Jared says, still too happy to have found her to be annoyed by the quip.
“Megan was great,” Mackenzie gushes, finally out of Jensen’s grasp. “She knew just what to do! Especially when that scorpion came around.”
“Scorpion?” Jensen asks, and he looks so aghast that Jared feels bad for him.
“It was simple science,” Megan says loftily. “And a bit of common sense. And I never could have guessed that you liked my plan from how much you complained about it.”
“I was just joking,” Mackenzie says, but her face goes pink as she ducks behind Jensen.
“But if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have though to stay behind the plant for shade,” Megan says shyly. “And we never would have found those cookie crumbs.”
“Wait--you found food?” Jared demands as his stomach gives a hearty rumble. “And who are you and what have you done with my sister? The Megan I know never would have admitted someone else helped her with something.”
“Well, it’s true,” Megan says, scuffing her foot, “that the practical side was my doing. But sometimes creativity can be good too?” She says it like a question, but Mackenzie is beaming.
“As heartwarming as this is,” Jensen says, interrupting them, “and even though I’m just as shocked as you are, Jared, that they didn’t kill each other, we still have a problem.”
“I was trying not to think about it. Thanks,” Jared says, scowling at nothing in particular.
“Not thinking about it doesn’t change the fact that your dad has to find us before we can be fixed.”
“Easily remedied,” Megan says, and both Jared and Jensen turn to look at her, slightly aghast. She merely points up and up to where the portable telephone is sitting on top of a wicker end-table.
“Megan and I aren’t strong enough to get to the top,” Mackenzie says, and yeah, Jared can see that. His sister is whippet-thin, the definition of a nerd, and Mackenzie looks like one of those girls who doesn’t participate in gym because she’s be worried about being gross and sweaty.
“I can climb that,” Jensen says confidently.
“You’ll need two people to press the buttons,” Megan says. “Just in case.”
Jensen looks at Jared expectantly, and Jared just grimaces slightly. “I can try?”
“I know you can do it. We’re not staying stuck like this forever. Dude, you survived being attacked by a giant cat. This is small shit compared to that.”
“You’re only saying that ‘cause I’m your last hope and you’re hungry,” Jared says petulantly.
“Is it working?” asks Jensen hopefully.
“He’ll do it,” Megan says earnestly. “He wants to impress you. I know it.”
“Megan,” Jared hisses, scandalized, as humiliation washes over him.
“It’s true!” she defends. “He stares at you through the window all the time!”
“Megan, I will strangle you. I swear to Jesus.”
“So impress me,” Jensen goads, but his mouth is crinkling up into a smile that makes Jared feel incrementally less stupid.
“Let’s just get this over with,” Jared sighs, gulping as he looks up at the height they need to cover before they reach the phone. It’s like rock climbing with no ropes, and he’s pretty certain they’re not going to get up there without one of them breaking their arms. Or worse. But if they stay on the ground much longer, who knows what Megan will say.
The climb starts out smoothly enough--they stay on the same table-leg as each other, careful to keep enough space that there are sufficient hand holds, but close enough that they can grab each other if need be.
The first ten minutes are like climbing a really slippery ladder. Jared’s breath is coming fast, both from the adrenaline and the exertion, and although Jensen seems to be faring a little better, he’s breathing hard too. They keep having to stop to rest their arms, mostly at Jared’s cue, and then, when they’re three quarters of the way up, high enough that they’re risking serious injury if one of them should fall, the inevitable happens.
Jared’s foot slips, and he finds himself dangling, his feet scrabbling at the wicker.
“Jensen,” he yells, half wildly. Distantly, he can hear his sister shouting from the ground but all he can really concentrate on is how his feet aren’t finding purchase as his arms begin to burn.
“Hang on, Jared!” Jensen says urgently, scrambling down a couple of steps so he’s within reach. “Stop panicking.”
“Stop giving me useless advice!” Jared shoots back. He’s gonna die. He knows he is.
Jensen hand on his arm is a shock, and then Jensen, somehow wrapped around two intertwined pieces of wood, catches Jared’s foot with his own. He grunts from the exertion, and Jared thinks that Jensen’s going to slip for a second, but then he’s using his own leg to guide Jared’s back to a solid foot hold.
By the end of it, they’re both gasping for breath. “You - are - such - a - drama - queen,” Jensen gasps.
“Sorry,” Jared apologizes, still trying to calm his racing heart.
“Let’s just get to the top before someone falls off,” Jensen says, but he doesn’t sound angry--just scared, so Jared doesn’t take offense. It’s a couple of minutes before Jared feels secure enough to keep going, but after the excitement of his near fatal accident, the last leg of the journey is uneventful, and he scrambles onto the top of the table with Jensen’s help.
“Let’s just call your dad and get this over with,” Jensen says. “He does have a cell phone, right?”
“Never goes anywhere without it,” Jared confirms. Thankfully, Jared’s mom bought a sleek phone that lay flat in it’s holder, not upright like the kitchen phone, so they can actually use it to call. Together, him and Jensen hit the speaker button, and then, quick as they can so they don’t take too long dialing, they put in Jared’s dad’s number.
It rings four times before switching over to voicemail, but Jared can hear the jangle of his dad’s ringtone upstairs.
“Redial,” Jensen says grimly, after they hang up, and they press the button, listening to the sounds of the phone dialing the number again.
This time Jared’s father picks up. “Hello?” he asks. “Who’s there? Megan? Jared?”
Jared looks at Jensen and then starts yelling as close he can to the receiver. “Downstairs! Back! Porch! Help! Shrunk!” It’s like a mantra he keeps repeating.
“Jared?” Jared’s dad asks again. “Is that you? I don’t hear anything.” Jared’s throat is beginning to hurt from the yelling, and for a second, he’s terrified that his dad will think it’s a hoax.
“Jared, if you’re there, and if you and your sister aren’t playing a terrible joke on me, stay where you are. I’ll find you.” He hangs up with a click, but Jared can hear him racing around upstairs, probably checking every portable phone with his magnifying glass.
“We’re saved!” he crows, throwing his arms around Jensen, who is jumping up and down, equally excited.
“We fucking made it!” Jensen yells, and Jared pulls back laughing widely. He catches a glimpse of Jensen’s face, as wide open and happy as Jared’s ever seen it, and then it’s much too close.
When Jensen kisses him, it’s a shock in more than one way. It wasn’t something he ever could have expected--being kissed by someone he wasn’t entirely sure he’d liked a couple of hours prior. And not only that, but it’s his first kiss, and all the hype he’s heard about in movies has to be true if first kisses feel like this. Jensen’s lips are dry, catching, parting so the moist heat of his tongue just barely touches Jared’s, and it makes him shiver, his lips tingling with the contact.
He wants to know what’s going on. He needs to talk to Jensen and figure out if this is all some sort of sick joke or if Jensen is kissing him because he wants to be.
He also never wants it to end.
Jensen pulls back as quickly as he’d approached, rubbing the back of his neck. “Sorry,” he says quickly. “Heat of the moment.”
“Don’t be,” Jared says, and he’s dizzy with wanting it again, so he does the only thing he can think of. Using both hands, he draws Jensen’s face towards him again, pressing their lips together inexpertly. Their teeth click, but Jensen just grabs Jared’s wrists and tilts his head a little, letting his mouth fall open under Jared’s. It’s soft and new and just as good as Jared thought he’d been imagining.
They don’t stop until Jared’s dad thunders by the back porch, and by the time they’re found, hand in hand, still on the face of the wicker table, Jared is quite certain that’s he’s just had the best day of his life.
Three Years Later
Jared’s lazing in bed, Jensen’s head pillowed on his shoulder, warm and relaxed and thanking God that it’s Saturday when his phone rings, loud in the silence.
“Make it stop, Jared,” Jensen groans, burrowing further into Jared’s skin as though that will somehow make things quiet again.
Jared can’t help but drop a kiss on his boyfriend’s back as he contorts himself to grab his cell from the nightstand and flip it open.
Immediately he wishes he’d left his phone outside.
“You’ve got to be joking,” he says, and then he’s tumbling out of bed, disrupting Jensen, who squawks as he very nearly falls out himself.
“Jesus, Dad. Yes, yes, I get it. We’ll be right there.” Jared slams his phone shut and starts scrounging on the floor for last night’s underwear.
“What is going on?” asks Jensen grumpily. “Is something wrong?”
“Maddie,” Jared says grimly, thinking of his two-year old sister--his parents’ big accident that had been born right as Jared turned seventeen.
“Is she okay?” Jensen sounds immediately alert, sitting up in bed, and if it wasn’t for the family emergency, Jared would be hard-pressed to leave the room after seeing Jensen like that, bleary-eyed and messy hair and pillow creases on his face.
“It’s my dad’s fucking shrink ray,” Jared snarls, stumbling into his pants.
“Please tell me he did not,” Jensen says flatly, struggling out of bed himself.
“How could it be worse, Jared?”
“He didn’t shrink her. He blew her up. And not in the exploding sense. In the sense that my baby sister is twenty feet tall and running through southern Texas.”
“Fuck,” says Jensen. “Can’t we ever have a nice, normal weekend?”
“Not while you’re my boyfriend,” Jared says. “Not a chance in hell.”
“Well let’s go then,” Jensen says. “We have a giant mutant Godzilla baby to rescue.” He pulls on his clothes so quickly that Jared’s surprised nothing rips.
“Goddamn, I love you,” Jared says. “You’re the only boyfriend who’d be able to say that with a straight face.”
“Fuckin’ A, you do. Now let’s go before something else happens.”
“After you, baby,” Jared says, and then they’re out the door together, ready to face another shrink ray dilemma just as they dealt with the first one: together.