Rating: NC-17 overall
Word Count: 19,000
Disclaimer: Complete fiction!
Summary Jared and Jensen have been best friends since they were three, and Jared honestly didn’t mean to fuck that all up. A J2 high school AU, since we all know there aren’t enough out there already.
Warnings: Very, very brief mention of past Jensen/Danneel. Homophobic language.
A huge thanks to my wonderful beta topsyturvy, without whom this story would be infinitely worse off. This was written for the spn_j2_xmas exchange. for bumblee, who wanted a high school AU where Jared and Jensen are best friends and one is forced to tell the other that he loves him, throwing their friendship into turmoil. It may be quite a bit longer than expected, but I hope you like it!
The clatter-clang of closing lockers makes Jared want to wince as he makes his way through the throng of students scrambling towards their sixth period classes. Thrusting his hands deeper into the front pocket of his sweatshirt, he ducks around three tittering freshman girls and into the cafeteria. The morning has felt like it has spanned an eternity, and Jared was thisclose to going to the nurse’s office and begging his mom to let him come home sick but the inevitable guilt trip she would’ve put on him isn’t worth the effort. He got maybe three hours of sleep last night, and he knows that Gen is going to rag on him until the bell rings.
Slouching into the lunch line, Jared stares at the whiteboard hanging on the cinderblock wall disinterestedly for almost a full minute before comprehending the daily special. He picks up a blue plastic tray and sets it down in front of him on the metal bars stationed in front of the plastic guarding the food, barely managing not to run into Katie Cassidy as she animatedly talks with one of the senior football players about pep rallies or win records or something else that Jared couldn’t care less about.
By the time Jared leaves the line, he’s accumulated a lunch he’s not entirely sure he remembers choosing. There’s a cup of tomato soup that’s disappointedly been made with water and not milk and a toasted cheese sandwich sticking greasily to a square of wax paper, along with a sadly bruised apple and a flat chocolate chip cookie. Despite the unappetizing selection in front of him, his stomach rumbles, and he shuffles to his customary table. Gen is already there, ignoring her paper boat full of french fries for the apparently exhilarating task of coloring her fingernails with a permanent marker.
Tossing his lunch onto the table, Jared flops into a plastic chair gracelessly. “Hey,” he grunts as Gen looks up and gives him an aggrieved look.
“You picked the wrong food,” she says in lieu of a greeting, dropping her attention back to her hands.
“What do you mean?” he asks, afraid that she’s going to tell him that the lunch ladies are serving contaminated food or something equally gross.
“Those aren’t brains,” she says flatly.
“...What?” Jared says.
“I thought all you zombies ate were brains,” Gen says, looking at him.
“Fuck off,” Jared mutters, pulling his sandwich free of the wax paper and taking a generous bite.
“Seriously, it looks like someone gave you two black eyes. You either need to invest in some sleeping pills or some heavy-duty cover-up.”
“I don’t need sleeping pills,” returns Jared dully, wiping his buttery fingers on the knees of his jeans.
“You need something,” Gen says. “Jared, I’m not joking. When’s the last night you slept more than a couple of hours? You’re worrying me here.”
“I’m fine. Just dealing with some insomnia. It’ll be okay.”
“Cut the bullshit. You’re so far from being all right. Maybe you should stop being such a dipshit and actually fucking talk to him.”
“Genevieve,” Jared says levelly, looking her in the eyes. “Drop it. I’m fine. I’m dealing with things. I know you don’t believe me, but. I just-- I need some time.”
Gen stares at him intensely for a few seconds before dropping her gaze and running one of her fries through a puddle of ketchup. She chews and swallows before opening her mouth again, and Jared’s too uncomfortable to take his attention from his lunch to her. If she keeps pushing him, it’s very possible that he might take off for the library for the remainder of the period.
“It’s just,” she starts and then blows her bangs out of her face frustratedly, “you’re not the same Jared I’ve known since fifth grade, and I miss you, okay? I need for you to get better so I can stop giving myself ulcers. It’s really fucking upsetting to be around you anymore.”
“I’m sorry my presence is ruining your life,” Jared says snidely, making a move to stand up.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Gen snaps. “Sit down and finish your lunch and I won’t talk about it anymore. I promise. But I’m here if you need me.”
“Okay,” Jared says, pulling himself close to the table again and pushing his spoon through the congealed soup on his tray. She squeezes his wrist with her tiny hand and then picks up her marker to resume her manicure.
“Hope you didn’t study too hard for Gonzalez’s unit test,” she says. “It’s a freaking joke.” Jared smiles weakly, doesn’t answer, and lets her prattle on until the bell rings to signal the start of seventh period.
Chucking his backpack under his chair, Jared very deliberately takes his seat in ninth-period chemistry and doesn’t look up from the desktop. He can hear his classmates chattering, and he hunches further down, hoping that no one is paying attention to him. Not for the first time in the past month, he wishes that Gen was in this class, or Gabe.
Mr. Beaver stumps through the door and sets his battered leather satchel on one of the lab tables at the front of the classroom. He’s joking dryly with Aldis Hodge over something and doesn’t immediately start class after the bell rings, finishing up his conversation as the room hums with the sound of several different voices. Jared gives an involuntary shudder as the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, and he wonders if someone’s staring at him or if he’s just being paranoid. Either way, he shifts uncomfortably in his chair and shoves his hands into the front pocket of his hoodie.
“Settle down everyone,” Mr. Beaver says, taking his place behind his desk, looking around the room placidly. The ambient noise immediately drops off, and Mr. Beaver pulls a stack of papers from his bag, setting them in front of him. He then starts unearthing plastic containers full of brightly colored balls and plastic rods. Jared groans inwardly, because it’s a lab day and he completely forgot. Fucking great.
“You know the drill,” Mr. Beaver says. “Grab a partner, get a lab packet, and start working. This lab is due before the bell rings. No exceptions.” There’s the immediate sound of thirty students shifting their seats out to find their friends and get the assignment. Jared sighs and looks aimlessly around the room at everyone else pairing up. He’s beginning to wonder if he’s going to be the loser who works alone when someone taps him on the back of his shoulder. Lauren Cohan looks at him expectantly, tilting her head so her hair falls in uneven waves over her shoulders.
“You got a partner?” she asks.
“Nah,” Jared says, inwardly hoping for a fire drill or freak hurricane to get them out of class. “Wanna work together?”
“It’s why I asked,” she says succinctly before moving to the front of the room to get the necessary materials. It’s not that Lauren’s a terrible person or mean or anything like that. She’s just a perfectionist and doesn’t tolerate stupidity, and Jared’s not sure he has the brain power to keep from pissing her off today. Maybe if he’s lucky, she’ll do the majority of the lab by herself with little input from him. He stands up to move his desk around so they can work face-to-face when someone runs into him hard from the side.
“Shit,” Jared hisses as his hip makes contact with the edge of the lab table.
“Watch out, asshole!” says Mike Rosenbaum, laughing meanly as Jared rubs his side to try and alleviate some of the pain. Rosenbaum’s partner, Jensen, looks on without saying anything, staring at the blackboard at the front of the class, and it’s almost as if he’s pretending Jared doesn’t exist. A pang of hurt runs through Jared’s chest, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how his hip is throbbing.
“Fuck off, dick,” Jared says lowly, mindful of keeping Mr. Beaver from hearing and coming over to issue detentions.
“You’re such a pussy,” Rosenbaum says, running into Jared again as he moves back the other way to get his book bag. “What, are you gonna get your drama friends to jump me after school?”
Jared clenches his hands but is saved from having to come up with something to say when Lauren dumps a handful of their modeling molecules onto the desk. “Michael,” she says, not looking up, “you’re in my way. Please move.”
Rosenbaum snorts. “You and Jared have a good day,” he tells Lauren, faux-sweetly. “You guys are a match made in heaven.”
Lauren blinks at him. “Your insults leave much to be desired,” she says, her accent making her seem incredibly condescending. “I’m sure you’re busy enough making sure Jensen fails today’s assignment, though, so I’m perfectly okay if you wish to leave.”
Rosenbaum makes a rude gesture towards her but moves away to begin putting together molecular models with Jensen. Jared picks up one of the balls and a connector stick and half-heartedly begins to help Lauren finish the lab to her specifications.
Jensen still hasn’t acknowledged that Jared exists.
It’s really hard to pretend you care about ye olde British literature, even if you have an essay test coming up in less than a week. Jared is sitting on his bed, haphazardly under his covers, trying in vain to get through twenty chapters of Jane Eyre before Monday so he can at least pepper his bullshit with actual facts from the book. He was supposed to have been keeping up with the assigned reading, but honestly, with everything else that’s been going on, he let it go by the wayside.
The house is quiet, and Jared sighs as he stares at the words swimming in front of his face. He’s maybe twenty pages further than he’d been forty-five minutes ago, and he’s not quite sure he even knows what he’s just read. Blinking tiredly, he tries to motivate himself to keep going, but it’s like trying to walk uphill in a snowstorm while wearing sandals. He dog-ears the page he’s on, throws the book onto the floor, and flops against his headboard, closing his eyes briefly. It’s only eight-thirty on a Friday night, but he literally has nothing to do, and he’s exhausted enough that it might be possible to actually fall asleep tonight, recent bouts of insomnia notwithstanding.
The obnoxiously loud chime of the doorbell startles Jared, and he sits up warily. His dad is working late tonight, and he’s not quite sure where his mother and sister have gone. He considers ignoring it, but the bell rings again, and then someone pounds on the door. Heaving another sigh, Jared untangles himself from the covers, tumbles out of bed, and drags himself down to the front hall. He really hopes that they’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses going around the neighborhood with free bibles, because he’s not sure he has the common courtesy not to shut the door in their faces.
He undoes the deadbolt and pulls the door open, looking outside to the front walk. Someone is in the process of going back to the driveway, and the figure turns at the noise. Jared doesn’t swear, but it’s a close thing.
“Hey,” Jared says quietly as Jensen closes his eyes in apparent exasperation.
“Hi,” Jensen replies, emotionlessly. “Um, I’m supposed to be picking up Mac. Is she here?”
“No,” Jared says. He’d elaborate, but he hadn’t even known that Megan was hanging out with Jensen’s sister today.
“They’ll probably be back soon,” Jared says, even though that’s just a guess. He assumes that they’re with his mother.
“Okay,” Jensen says. “I guess I’ll go wait in the car.”
“You don’t have to,” says Jared, almost on an impulse. He doesn’t want Jensen in the house, and Jensen absolutely looks like he’d rather stand outside in a hurricane instead of stepping inside.
“That’s fine,” Jensen says stiffly. “Just send her out when she gets here.”
A flash of anger, sudden and hot, flares in Jared’s stomach. “So, what?” he says, fury infusing actual emotion in his voice for the first time all night. “You hate me that much that you can’t even come inside?”
“Oh, fuck you, Jared,” says Jensen wearily. “It’s not like that.”
“It sure seems like that from here,” Jared says snidely.
“No, you know what?” Jensen takes a menacing step forwards but Jared stands his ground in the doorway. “You’re the one who started this, Jared. You’re the one who put this on me.”
“You do not get to blame me for this,” Jared snaps. “I’m not the one who walked out and stopped talking. I’m not the one who’s been avoiding me for the last month.”
“Well, what did you expect, Jared? Seriously!” Jensen is very close to yelling, standing ten feet from Jared’s front door, arms thrown wide. “You threw that shit on me with no warning. How was I supposed to react?”
“You were supposed to not be an asshole!” Jared shouts. “I didn’t tell you to get you to do anything.”
“No, you did it because you’re a selfish dick!” Jared can only see half of Jensen’s face, but he seems absolutely furious. “You should’ve just kept it to yourself, Jared! I didn’t want to fucking know!”
“Oh, grow up, Jensen,” Jared says, but he’s breathing heavily and he can feel tears stinging behind his eyes. “If you’re going to let this ruin the last fourteen years, then you can just go fuck yourself.”
Jensen stands there silently for a couple of beats. “Well, I guess that’s how it’s gonna be, Jared. It’s just--I can’t.”
“Fine,” Jared snarls, stepping back and slamming the door. Resisting the urge to go to the window and see what Jensen’s doing, he takes the stairs two at a time and flings himself onto the floor of his bedroom, sitting up against his mattress. He stares at the wall blankly for several minutes before he gets up the energy to stand and turn his light off before crawling into bed. It’s four in the morning before he falls asleep.
When Jared was three, his mother met a couple down the street from them, and it wasn’t long before she’d arranged for Jared to have a play-date with their little boy. Although it’s practically impossible, Jared swears that he can still remember meeting Jensen for the first time when his mother sat him down in the park before retreating to a bench to talk with Mrs. Ackles. Whatever the case, Jared’s mom still tells the story fondly, even though it isn’t much of a story to hear.
Jared had a G.I. Joe and Jensen had a small Tonka truck, and at first, they just sort of sat a little way away from each other, playing in the sandbox. But then Jensen ran his truck over a little hill that was near Jared and Jared used his G.I. Joe as a mutant giant, chasing Jensen’s toy clumsily through the sand. Instead of being upset, Jensen made a little war cry, and they began to play nonsensically, the lull of their mothers’ conversation interrupted intermittently by their three-year-old approximations of gunfire and explosions.
Due to the proximity of their houses, Jared spent almost as much time over at Jensen’s as he did at his own home. Jensen had a pool, and movie channels on his television, and during the summer, they would always come up with schemes to stretch their sleepovers into four-day-long events, baking in the sun and practicing their cannonballs off of the low diving board that Jensen’s parents had installed. Although their older brothers never really hit it off, Megan and Mac found a certain camaraderie over Barbie dolls and play-doh, so it soon became commonplace for Jared to take his sister’s hand and walk her down the street past the Johnsons’ huge, barking dalmatians to Jensen’s house.
Eventually, Jensen’s family moved across town into a house that his father had designed, but even though it was harder to get together, Jared still considered Jensen to be the friend he was closest to. They began to hang with different people once they hit middle school--Jensen was friends with his teammates from the baseball team, and Jared usually hanged around people who were in drama club with him, but no matter what, they still sat together at lunch and partnered with each other on field trips. It was kind of weird, maybe--their shared past overcame a lot of obstacles that might have broken them apart otherwise.
It was the same though high school. Jared was the first one to know when Jensen kissed Danneel Harris in the dugout after practice, and Jensen was the only one Jared could think to call when he was cast as the lead in the school’s fall production, even though he was only a sophomore. They got drunk for the first time together on a bottle of cheap tequila that Jensen had pilfered from his brother’s dorm room. It had come to the point where Jared was sure that they’d head off to college together.
Jared honestly hadn’t meant to fuck all that up.
Sitting against a row of lockers, Jared pages through a worn copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, trying to memorize his lines with the least amount of effort possible. Ms. Gamble, the drama director, decided in September to raise the bar on previous fall productions and finally introduced Shakespeare into the drama club’s repertoire. If truth be told, Jared had been a little annoyed that it took about five separate readings to finally muddle throw what the play meant, but he’s generally excited about performing it the last week of classes before winter break.
“How fare ye, Puck?” someone calls from down the hallway, startling Jared from his position.
“Hey, Misha,” he says, as Misha throws himself next to Jared carelessly, sitting maybe a little too close for comfort. Misha moved to their school last year, and is generally considered to be a little crazy. Nevertheless, Jared likes him well enough, especially when he turns on the dry humor.
“Our fair teacher implored me to bequeath to you the knowledge that we shall be rehearsing your scene shortly.” Misha knocks his foot into Jared’s leg and looks at him expectantly
“Oh?” says Jared, distractedly paging through his script to the beginning of the scene so he can go over his lines for one last time before going inside.
“Verily,” says Misha, grinning toothily.
“You know,” Jared says, “we’re not rehearsing yet. You don’t have to talk like that.” Even as he’s saying it, he knows it’s a lost cause. Misha acts how Misha wants to act, consequences be damned.
“My good sir,” Misha says, mock-affronted. “How can you possibly expect me to know the depths of Bottom’s soul if I do not give my very best effort to understanding everything about him?”
“At least learn your Shakespearean better,” Jared says. “They don’t really talk like that.”
“Lies!” Misha shouts. “Vicious untruths! You cur!” Jared laughs shortly and moves to stand up, shaking his leg to try and make his foot wake up again.
“You said she’s almost ready for us, yeah?” he says. “We can go in now.”
“That would be most wise, my dear Puck,” says Misha, all ire instantly gone. He extends a hand upwards, and Jared shakes his head bemusedly as he pulls Misha to his feet. All of a sudden, braying laughter fills the hallway.
“Jesus, Collins,” says Chris, pushing his locker closed and hoisting his backpack onto one shoulder. “No one wants to watch your big gay love affair with Padalecki.”
“Just because you’re in the closet doesn’t mean we all should be,” says Misha sweetly, threading an arm through Jared’s and immediately abandoning his Shakespearean for actual modern-day English. Jared tries to subtly shake him off, but Misha’s grip is tight, and Jared can feel his cheeks flush a dull red.
Chris’s eyes narrow dangerously. “You better not be saying what I fuckin’ think you’re saying.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Misha says. “I completely understand that you’re not as comfortable with your sexuality as I am. It’s perfectly okay.”
“Misha,” Jared hisses, “stop it.”
“You’d better listen to your boyfriend,” Chris says dangerously, stepping forward. “Your hippie yoga shit isn’t going to help you win any fights, Collins.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” says Misha. “Even though I think our friend Mr. Kane doesn’t have an original thought in that empty head of his, I do think I am afraid of his brute strength! You will protect me, won’t you?”
“Fuckin’ take that back,” Chris snarls, dropping his bag and curling his hand into a fist. Jared’s 90% sure that Chris is just putting on a show and isn’t really stupid enough to start something like this on school property, but that extra 10% makes him want to turn tail and run into the auditorium. Chris isn’t a tall guy, but he’s pretty athletic and plenty strong enough to pound Jared’s face in.
“He didn’t mean it,” Jared placates. “C’mon, Chris, just calm down. He’s just tryin’ to make you mad.”
“Honey,” Misha gasps. “You won’t stand up for me? I thought our love transcended all obstacles!”
“Misha, shut up!” Jared says under his breath.
Chris smirks and steps back again, and Jared is relieved that his instincts weren’t wrong. “That’s right, Padalecki,” he says, picking up his bag.
Just then, Ms. Gamble pokes her head out of the door. “Misha? Jared?” she says. “We’re ready for you now.”
“Coming!” Misha says merrily. She disappears back into the dark of the room, and Misha wraps his arms around Jared’s neck and kisses his jaw noisily. Jared sputters but Misha doesn’t seem to notice, giving Chris a narrow look before dislodging himself.
“I’ll see you inside, sweetheart,” he chirps, and then darts into the auditorium, leaving Jared alone with Chris in the hallway.
“Fuckin’ disgusting,” Chris mutters, a sneer on his face. Jared would tell him that he and Misha aren’t like that at all, but it would be a waste of breath. Misha could bring his space-case girlfriend in to class and make out with her on top of the teacher’s desk and Chris would still tell everyone about how he and Jared were big gay lovers. Whatever.
“Screw you, Kane,” Jared says, picking up his script and ducking into the doorway to take his place on stage.
Jared is trying to conjugate a sheet full of verbs for Spanish class at lunch the next day when someone drops a bag of chips on his book and sits down next to him.
“Long time no see, Danny,” says Gen, looking up from her sketchbook.
“Felt like a change today,” says Danneel, opening her salad container and pouring an unearthly amount of ranch dressing on top of the lettuce. “Mike and Tom were being really annoying this morning, and I really don’t want to have to deal with them any more than I have to.”
“Hey, thanks,” Jared says, holding up the chips before opening them. Danneel is a bit of an enigma in their school--she’s one of the varsity cheerleaders, but she still manages to have at least one friend in every clique, and she’s wickedly smart to boot.
“Poder is an irregular verb, by the way,” she says, pointing at his homework.
“Oh, right,” Jared says, erasing part of his worksheet and putting in the correct answer.
“So, Jared,” Danneel says. “Chris told me this morning that you’re going out with Misha Collins. True? Not true? I’m curious.”
Jared chokes on the mouthful of water he’s just drunk. “Gross,” Gen says, handing over a handful of napkins so Jared can wipe up the water he’s accidentally sprayed on the table.
“Sorry, I guess I should’ve built up to that, huh?” says Danneel, smiling slightly.
“I’m not,” Jared says hastily. “Definitely not going out with Misha. He has a girlfriend.”
“I thought so,” says Danneel. “But you try telling anyone that Chris is wrong when he’s got it in his head to be an asshole.”
“He’s always an asshole,” Genevieve says, not bothering to look up from her drawing.
Danneel inclines her head towards Gen before shrugging. “I’ll give you that.”
“Is he telling everyone?” Jared demands, crumpling the wet napkins in his hand.
“Pretty much. He told me that he caught you two making out in the drama hallway after school yesterday.”
Jared’s mouth drops open. “That’s--that’s so far from being anywhere close to the truth!”
“I figured,” Danneel says. “I wanted to put it straight, but I thought maybe I should get the story from you first. Not that anyone’ll believe me.”
“Dammit,” Jared mutters, because he really doesn’t want this kind of attention.
“He’s just mad because you ruined the curve on that last AP History test,” Danneel says. “He failed it.”
“Nothing happened!” Jared says hotly. “Misha was just egging him on because he was being a dick.”
Danneel smiles humorlessly. “It’ll blow over, Jared. Don’t worry about it.”
“I hate my life,” Jared says to his Spanish book. “Julie McNiven’s going to be glaring at me all through English. She thinks Misha’s her soulmate.”
“Oh, I forgot about that,” Danneel laughs. “But she’s harmless, so I think you’ll be okay.”
“Says you,” Jared mutters.
“You really are the most dramatic person I know,” Gen says. “Man up and stop being such a baby.”
“Thanks for your support, Gen.”
“You know I love you best, honey,” she quips, dead-pan.
True to the cliche, Chris’s rumor spreads like wildfire among the popular crowd, which unfortunately mostly includes catty bitches and aggressive assholes. Every time he passed a pack of them in the hall, he’d heard some sort of tittered whispering, and Rosenbaum had even had the nerve to shove him into a locker before eighth period. Massaging his sore shoulder, Jared hopes that Mike comes up with a different form of bullying, because he’s really fucking sick of all the bruises. Jared is very close to snapping, and he’s not entirely sure that he’ll be able to come away from Mike without hitting back next time, and since he only ever sees Mike in school, this could potentially be a very big problem.
Jared had hoped that the rain would abet before his literary magazine meeting ended, but it’s coming down harder than before, slicking the pavement and forming unavoidable puddles at random intervals in the parking lot. Staring out of the school doors forlornly, Jared tries to think of where he last saw his umbrella but he comes up blank. He steels himself and pushes the door open, glad that mostly everyone else has apparently gone directly home. The wind attempts to push him back inside, pelleting his face with stinging droplets of water.
Jared jogs to his car, zig-zagging around puddles when he can, but by the time he’s blindly pushing the key inside of the lock, his pants are soaked up to the knee and his feet are squishing uncomfortably in his shoes. He finally manages to wrench open the door to his truck, and he clambers inside as quickly as possible, making to throw his sodden backpack on the passenger seat. Except someone’s already sitting there.
“Holy shit!” Jared shouts, throwing one arm out for protection, his heart doing its best to beat itself up through his throat.
“Hey, hey, it’s just me!” says Creepy Car Invader, throwing his hands out in a placating gesture, and Jared knows that voice. Slowly, hesitantly, he lowers his hand and takes in his erstwhile stowaway.
“Jensen, what the fuck are you doing in my car?” Jared demands. “How did you get in here?”
“Thanks for not stabbing my eyes out with your keys,” Jensen says drily.
“It would’ve served you right!” Jared snaps. “What are you doing in my car?”
Jensen shifts in his seat so that he’s angled towards Jared, and Jared immediately moves further back against the driver’s side door so he’s as far from Jensen as physically possible without getting outside. Jensen’s hair is damp, not wet, so he’s probably been in Jared’s car for a while, considering that Jensen’s Honda is nowhere around, and even though Jensen’s the one who’s somewhere he’s not supposed to be, he’s still giving Jared a thoroughly pissed off glare.
“You left your spare set of keys at my house,” he says in lieu of any explanation as to why he’s suddenly decided to be a super-stalker.
“And you never gave them back?” asks Jared incredulously. “I haven’t been to your house in over a month. Jesus, Jensen!” God, Jared had been wondering where those had gotten to.
Jensen narrows his eyes. “It’s not my job to bring your shit back to you if you can’t even keep track of it.”
“Is that why you decided to break into my car? What the fuck, Jensen?”
“No,” Jensen says steadily, not missing a beat. “I want to talk to you.”
“Well, go ahead! Seeing as you already decided to be massively creepy about it.”
Jensen ignores the insult and keeps looking at Jared in a way that makes Jared want to punch things. Preferably Jensen-shaped things.
“Are you really dating Misha Collins?” Jensen asks, and there’s an underlying tension to his voice that Jared places as anger.
Jared stares at Jensen for at least ten seconds, his mouth hanging open. “Oh, my God. Was this really so important that you had to sit in my car and wait for me? What is wrong with you?”
“Are you?” Jensen asks again, his voice hard.
“Why do you care?” Jared says. “You’re not my friend anymore, remember? You gave up your right to ask me anything and expect me to answer.”
“So you are dating him,” Jensen says.
“So what if I am?” Jared yells. “Why does it matter?”
“Just wondering,” Jensen says tightly.
“No, you know what? You better tell me what’s going on here! You don’t break into people’s cars if you’re curious. What the hell?”
But Jensen’s already groping for the door handle to let himself out, an ugly expression on his face. “Have fun sucking cock, Jared,” he says nastily.
“Go fuck yourself,” Jared shouts, and Jensen slams the door. Jared doesn’t think he’s ever hated anyone as much as he hates Jensen right now, and his stomach twists with anger and hurt and humiliation. It takes him at least twenty minutes to calm down enough to feel safe driving home.
If there is one thing that Jared’s thankful for it’s the fact that he’s no longer fourteen. Fourteen is probably the shittiest age anyone could be, and Jared can’t think of anything that made the entire year worthwhile. He was still short, shorter than almost every other boy in his grade, and even though his mother kept assuring him that he’d grow, he felt small and ugly and inadequate. Not only that, but everyone around him was talking about dating and kissing and having sex, and Jared stayed up at night, confused and upset thinking about it.
See, the thing is, Jared wasn’t entirely what kind of relationship he even wanted to have with a girl. He had friends who were girls, yes, and he liked them just as much as he liked any of his guy friends. As for girlfriends--well, Jared had no idea. But when Gabe started talking about his girlfriend and how they spent hours french-kissing, Jared felt like shuddering because Gabe’s girlfriend was small and mousy and Jared didn’t think her tongue would feel good in anyone’s mouth. And sometimes when he was around Tom, the conversation would turn towards boobs, and that was frustrating, because what did Jared know about boobs? They were round and girls had them, and Tom always talked about how Kristen Bell had let him feel her’s after the homecoming football game, and it sounded completely repulsive.
Jared had worried for a long time about how fucked up he was. He couldn’t talk to his brother, because Jeff had perennially brought a new girl home every other month since he was in ninth grade, and Jared was sure that he wouldn’t understand. And his parents were out for the same reason, because who wanted to ask their parents about that shit? That entire year, Jared struggled to come to grips with the fact that he wasn’t like everyone else and that he had absolutely no one to talk about it with.
Because maybe Jared didn’t like girls because he liked boys instead? But how did that even work? Jared knew about gay people through television, but he’d never met one in real life. It wasn’t something that you ever talked about in their town, and Jared was miserable without anything to go by.
One night in June, a couple of weeks before his birthday, Jared was sleeping over Jensen’s house for the second night in a row. After gorging themselves on junk food and watching just about every horror movie that was playing on Jensen’s movie channels, they holed themselves in Jensen’s room. They were sharing Jensen’s king-sized bed because that’s how they’d always done it, and it was more than big enough for the both of them. It was maybe one in the morning, and they were just lying there in the dark, talking about nothing in particular. There was something about that night and their lazy conversation that made Jared want to tell Jensen everything he’d ever thought about in his life.
“Do you like any girls?” Jared blurted when Jensen’s commentary about how Michael Myers was the shittiest horror villain ever came to a rambling end.
Jensen was quiet for such a long time that Jared almost thought that he’d overstepped some unspoken boundary. But then Jensen spoke up, right before Jared was about to retract his question. “Not really? Why, do you like someone?”
“No,” Jared said. “It’s just--sometimes I think...”
“Sometimes you think?” Jensen prompted.
“That maybe I might not like girls like that,” Jared said, so quietly that he barely heard himself.
Jensen was silent for a long time again, and Jared’s heart began to hammer against his ribs. “Maybe there isn’t a girl you like yet,” he reasoned. “You don’t know. I mean, have you even ever kissed a girl?”
“No,” said Jared, blushing in the dark.
“Then you don’t know,” Jensen said decisively.
“But if I was,” Jared started, and then amended himself. “If I don’t like girls, will you still be my friend?”
No noise again, and Jared was getting really, really sick of all of these silences. “Don’t be a retard,” Jensen said finally, stretching his leg out so he could lightly kick Jared’s.
“Thanks, Jensen,” Jared said before he turned his face into his pillow and closed his eyes.
No matter how hard he tries, Jared can’t get the hang of integrals. He’s sitting on the floor of his room, math book open in front of him, and his paper is grubby from all the times he’s had to erase his wrong answers. Blowing his bangs from his face, he leans over his book and rereads the same passage for the fifteenth time, but he’s no closer to understanding than he was when he started. This problem he’s having concentrating is beginning to become an unsettling trend, and he’s starting to wonder if he’s going to be able to pull through till winter break without completely decimating his GPA.
Someone knocks at his front door, and Jared looks up momentarily before leaning back over his homework. He can hear his sister clomping through the front hall, and he dismisses the sound until someone yells his name.
“Jared, someone’s here for you!” Megan shouts, and Jared’s heart skips three beats, because he’s not expecting anyone, and if Jensen’s in his house, Jared doesn’t know what he’ll do or say. He stands up and wipes his hands on his pants, but he can already hear someone coming up the stairs.
His heart’s still going super-fast, but the person who opens his door isn’t Jensen at all. Instead, Danneel sweeps inside, and Jared’s honestly confused because sure, Danneel’s a friend, but she was always much closer to Jensen, and Jared can’t remember the last time she was in his room.
“Um, hi?” he offers, standing awkwardly by his desk. Danneel doesn’t seem to notice where he is as she throws herself down on his bed.
“Hey,” she offers brightly.
“Is there a reason you’re here?” Jared asks, still nonplussed.
“Nah,” says Danneel. “I was just bored, and I figured we hadn’t had girl time in forever.”
“Um,” Jared says again, not entirely sure if he should be insulted. “Have we ever had...that before?”
Danneel pauses for a second. “I guess not,” she concedes. “But all the more reason for us to talk now.”
“Not to be rude or anything,” Jared says, “but I’m not getting what we have to talk about that’s so important that you have to come over to my house to do it.”
Leveling an are-you-joking look at him, Danneel kicks her feet out and settles her head against his pillows. Jared sits down again on his floor, still facing her but avoiding her gaze.
“C’mon, Jared,” Danneel wheedles. “Talk to me.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Jared says.
“That’s such bullshit,” Danneel says. “Look, Jared, I just want to know what’s going on.”
“What’s going on with what?”
“Stop playing dumb,” Danneel says angrily. “You know what I’m talking about. What is wrong with you and Jensen? Why have you guys been avoiding each other for the last month? Why is it that when I tried to say hi to him this morning, he nearly bit my head off?”
“I don’t know, Danneel,” Jared says tersely. “Why don’t you ask him?”
“I’ve tried,” she says. “He won’t talk to me.”
“So, what?” Jared says. “You thought you’d come here and make me tell you that it’s all my fault so you could go back and make him feel better?”
“What? No, Jared, that’s not it at all.” Danneel doesn’t sound mad anymore, just upset.
“I mean, you’re more of his friend than mine,” Jared plows on. “I don’t even know why you’re here.”
“Because you’re miserable,” she exclaims. “And so is he, and God, Jared! You’re both my friends and something’s going on, and I want to know what so I can help.”
“You can’t,” Jared says viciously.
“You’re being stupid,” Danneel says. “Look, I don’t know what you guys fought about, but it can’t be that bad--”
“Why don’t you tell him this stuff, huh?” Jared says. “Why am I the one who has to fix everything? He’s the one who’s not talking to me.”
“Jared, I just want to know what’s going on,” Danneel pleads. “I’m your friend too, and I was talking to Genevieve and--”
“Do you and Genevieve have little parties where you talk about me behind my back now?” Jared asks. He knows he’s being mean, but he can’t help it. Her being here, in his room, almost feels like an attack, and he’s not close at all with Danneel, but Jensen is, so he can’t figure out what she’s trying to get at.
“Stop being like this,” says Danneel, and damn, she’s really beginning to sound distressed. Jared can’t stop being angry long enough to feel bad.
“This is just how I am,” he says again. “Maybe you should leave.”
“This is not how you are,” Danneel says. “You’ve never acted like this before. Jared, what is wrong?”
“Nothing!” Jared shouts. “Nothing is wrong! You could’ve asked me this in school today and I would’ve given you the exact same answer, so you wasted a trip for nothing.”
“Jared,” Danneel says and then swallows, composing herself. “I’m just really confused, okay? One day you and Jensen were practically inseparable and the next you can’t even stand to be in the same room. You’re both acting weird and upset and angry all the time, and no one knows what’s going on besides you two. We’re all worried, Jared! I’m not here just about Jensen--I care what’s going on with you too. And if you don’t tell anyone, there’s no way it’ll get better.”
“Look, I’ve told Genevieve a thousand times that I don’t want to talk about it,” Jared says, quietly furious. “And guess what? I still don’t want to talk about it.”
“Fine,” Danneel huffs. “Then answer this. Why does Jensen think you’re going out with Misha?”
“Um, maybe because Chris told him?” Jared says hotly. “I don’t know why Jensen thinks anything.”
“He said you told him that you were,” Danneel says. “Which is weird, because I distinctly remember you telling me that Chris was full of bullshit.”
“I never told him anything like that,” Jared says, which isn’t a lie; even if he didn’t outright deny it in the car yesterday, he didn’t confirm anything either.
“Then it’s really strange that he’s so convinced that it’s the truth, isn’t it?” Danneel accuses. Jared doesn’t say anything, and Danneel just looks at him for a couple of seconds before sighing.
“You know you can tell me anything, right?” she says. “I won’t tell anyone else.”
“Danneel, I barely know you,” Jared says back. “There’s nothing I want to talk about with you. Can you please just go? I can’t sit here and talk to you anymore. I can’t.”
Danneel pulls herself off of the bed. “If that’s how you feel,” she says stiffly.
“Yeah,” Jared says.
“Fine. If you see the old Jared, can you tell him I miss him? This new version’s a real asshole, you know?” Danneel leaves without letting him say anything back to her, and even though she doesn’t quite slam his door on the way out, it’s a close call. Jared pulls his knees to his chest and rests his head on them, practically shaking as the adrenaline works its way out of his system. He hears someone outside of his room pause and then open his door a little way.
“Is everything okay?” his sister asks hesitantly. “I heard shouting. Where did that girl go?”
“I’m fine,” Jared says automatically. “She had to go home. Everything’s fine.” Megan doesn’t say anything but she does come into his room and sit next to him, her warmth a soothing comfort against his side.
Genevieve stays after school with Jared, even though he has drama practice and she’s never acted in her life. She’s been kind of cool towards him all day, so Jared is prepping himself for a chewing-out, and she doesn’t disappoint.
“So Danny told me you were kind of an dick on Tuesday,” she says with no preamble as Jared searches for his script in his locker.
“You and Danneel seem to be getting pretty close,” Jared deflects. Gen doesn’t rise to the bait.
“She’s just worried. You didn’t need to be such a jerk about it.”
“She ambushed me in my own house,” Jared defends. “I’ve told you about a million times that I don’t want to talk about what happened. You could’ve told her and saved her the trouble.”
“I was actually hoping that you’d stop being so freakin’ stubborn and actually let someone know what’s going on with you,” says Gen, tucking her hair behind her ears and fixing Jared with a harsh glare. “Since you never want to talk to me anymore, I was hoping that you’d at least talk to Danny. But I guess that was too much to expect.”
“I guess so,” Jared mumbles.
Genevieve scowls and picks her backpack up from the ground, shouldering it with more force than is probably necessary. “Just to let you know, Jared,” she says, “it’s getting really difficult to hang around with you anymore.”
“Then maybe you shouldn’t!” Jared says, stung.
“Maybe I won’t!” Genevieve huffs, turning around and leaving Jared standing alone next to his open locker. Jared can feel the beginnings of a tension headache behind his eyes, and he rotates his shoulders trying to alleviate some of the weight that’s inexplicably settled there. Swinging his book bag onto his back, he walks towards the auditorium, completely distracted from any thoughts of how he’s going to get through rehearsal in one piece.
There’s a small congregation of students standing behind stage, waiting for Ms. Gamble to give directions on who’s rehearsing what scene today. Jared joins them instead of standing awkwardly away from the group, and he’s immediately accosted by Misha, who throws an arm around his neck.
“You’re finally here, sweetheart,” he says. “I was getting so worried!” Today, Misha’s adopted an over-the-top, fake British accent, and Jared wonders how he’s apparently become boyfriends with someone so weird.
“Isn’t your girlfriend going to get jealous if you keep coming onto me like this?” Jared asks, trying to subtly duck out of Misha’s grip.
“She understands that I need male companionship,” Misha says sagely. “She’s perfectly okay with our burgeoning affair.” Julie McNiven, their Helena, is giving Jared a dirty look, but Aldis and Alona are laughing at Misha’s antics.
“She just thinks the two of you are hot,” Aldis says, smiling widely. “Betcha she’d pay good money to see you guys make out.” Alona laughs harder at that, and Misha elbows Jared in the side.
“What do you say, honey? Should we turn our relationship into a peep show?”
“Or not,” replies Jared, finally squirming out of Misha’s hold around his neck. Misha mock-pouts for a minute, and Jared resolutely ignores him.
“Besides,” Alona pipes up, “it’s not Misha who should be worried about jealous girlfriends.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jared questions suspiciously. Alona shrugs coyly, which is annoying as fuck, and Misha clarifies for her, still talking in that ridiculous accent.
“Jensen Ackles talked to me for the first time ever today,” he says nonchalantly. “Something about how you were using me for my body and that you were actually interested in a girl but you weren’t sure you could get her, so you were settling for me.”
“What,” Jared splutters. “But--I--Misha, you’re not really my boyfriend!”
“I can’t believe you’re breaking up with me here!” Misha cries. “In front of all these people, no less!”
“It was weird,” agrees Alona. “I was with him when Jensen came up. I thought you guys were fighting, Jared?”
“We are,” says Jared through gritted teeth. Somehow, this situation has escalated beyond anything he could’ve imagined. Meanwhile, Misha is fake-sobbing into his hands.
“Misha, you are the gayest straight dude I have ever met,” Aldis says dryly right before Ms. Gamble finally emerges from the back of the auditorium to call rehearsal to order.
By the age of fifteen, Jared had decided that yes, he was almost definitely gay, and no, he wasn’t telling anyone until he’d had actual physical experience that could solidify his theory. Besides that one night at Jensen’s house, he hadn’t actually confessed to anyone about his possible homosexuality, and he wasn’t too keen on actually coming out. He lucked out in the fact that Jensen hadn’t entered his girl-crazy stage yet, so he still had one friend who didn’t want to spend all of their time together talking about pussy and porn. Which was kind of awesome, because that’s all Jared ever talked about when he got together with Chad.
However, this whole keeping secrets schtick that Jared had going on really backfired on him when his hormones fully reared their potential, because then he had no one to talk to except for Jensen, and he couldn’t talk to Jensen about this anymore. It wasn't because he was afraid that Jensen would stop being his friend or that he’d tell Jared’s parents or anything like that.
It’s just that Jared maybe sort of kinda had a giant crush on Jensen. And isn’t that the shittiest thing, because Jensen’s been Jared’s friend since childhood, and if anything, he should feel like a brother and not a potential boyfriend. It was gradual at first--Jared didn’t even know that it was happening. So he stared a little longer at Jensen when he came out of the pool, and maybe thinking that Jensen smells nice wasn’t something that he should do as Jared’s friend. But that’s normal, right? He was just comparing Jensen to himself, wasn’t he?
Except that he thought it wasn’t normal behavior to think about Jensen while he’s masturbating. Nor was it okay that his favorite fantasy was to imagine Jensen’s lips wrapped around his prick. That’s when Jared knew he was in trouble. Because, without realizing it, he had gone and developed a monumental crush on his best friend.
Jared tried really, really hard to pretend that he and Jensen were in a totally platonic relationship whenever they hung out. But it was so hard to not open his mouth and blurt everything out, because he’s been friends with Jensen so long for a reason. They get along, and they know each other, and the kind of camaraderie they’ve built is a result of fourteen years of being around each other constantly.
Sometimes Jared wished that Jensen would make things easier on him and be a douche bag about something so Jared could remember why it was a bad idea to like your best friend like that. But Jensen’s never been a dick to him, even when his jock friends are acting like assholes, and even when they fight about stupid shit, Jensen’s usually the one who comes forward first to call it off. Jared’s always been too stubborn for his own good.
One day, Jensen was over Jared’s house, lounging in one of the kitchen chairs and helping Jared systematically demolish an entire plate of chocolate chip cookies. The back door crashed open and Megan stormed into the kitchen, sobbing dramatically as she chucked her purse onto the counter. She had just turned twelve, and everything in her life was on one of two extremes: absolutely perfect or dreadfully awful.
“God, Megan,” Jared muttered because the last time she was like this, someone had insulted her clothes or trapper keeper or something equally lame. Megan didn’t answer but just whirled around, stalked up to the kitchen table, and socked Jared hard in the arm. Jensen was muffling his laughter behind his hands, and Megan didn’t seem to notice.
“What’s up, squirt?” Jensen asked when he had regained a straight face.
“Don’t c-call me that!” Megan wailed, throwing herself into an empty chair.
“Sorry,” replied Jensen in a tone that told Jared that he’s not actually repentant at all.
“And if you m-must know,” Megan continued, sniffing, “Jesse Owens told me today that n-no one would ever w-want to date me because I’m ugly!”
“Jesse Owens sounds like a little dickhead,” Jared said, because any boy who messes with his kid sister deserves to eat pavement.
“He’s right!” Megan cried. “I’m too skinny and my hair’s not blonde like Dana Roberts’ and my eyes are mud-colored.” Jared almost wanted to clap his hands over his ears due to the decibels of her crying, but Jensen scooted closer and gently clocked her on the chin, forcing her to look up at him.
“Hey,” Jensen said softly, “don’t be like that. Any guy would be lucky to date you.”
“Jesse Owens is the most popular boy in our grade,” Megan countered. “If he says that no one will want to date me, then no one will want to date me!”
“Megan, you’re twelve,” said Jared darkly. “You shouldn’t be dating yet at all.” That didn’t help the situation.
“Would it make it better if this Jesse punk thinks you have a boyfriend?” Jensen asked gently.
“I don’t know,” Megan sniffled. “Maybe. But I don’t, so why does it matter?”
“But Jesse doesn’t know that,” said Jensen mischievously. “Maybe I’ll pick you up from school one day and we can pretend that you’re my girlfriend.”
“Gross,” said Jared disgustedly. “You’re four years older than her! I’m going to be sick.”
“You would do that?” said Megan, ignoring Jared completely. “Really?”
“Yup,” said Jensen. “After all, I can’t let the entire sixth grade think that my best friend’s sister isn’t completely awesome.”
Megan squealed and threw her arms around Jensen’s neck. Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Jared tried to figure out why he all of a sudden felt so inexplicably fond of Jensen right then. Like, all Jared wanted to do that very second was pull Jensen over the table and kiss him until they both couldn’t breathe properly.
And then it hit him.
Jared had gone and done the most monumentally stupid thing he ever could have.
He’d gone and fallen in love with his best friend.