“So you just… left?” Misha asks, rephrasing like he hadn’t heard Jensen right the first ten times he told him. Frustrated, Jensen rolls his eyes, pressing the balled up tissue to the corner of his damp eyes.
“Yes, Misha, I just left.”
“Well,” his roommate begins, though the uncertainty of his direction is apparent. “Maybe there was some explanation for it? Why he was like that?”
“Maybe,” Jensen murmurs. “I don’t… I just couldn’t, you know. Couldn’t be there. And I know I shouldn’t have left, I know that, but. I just. I couldn’t.”
“No, man, that’s totally, totally understandable,” Misha reassures, so convincingly Jensen almost believes him. “This shit… this is some tough shit, dude. Like… really tough. Just takes time and shit like that.”
“You been watching Dr. Phil?” Jensen asks, a hint of a smile flitting over his features.
“Maybe,” Misha draws out, before remembering something excitedly. “Dude! The other day, there was this fat lady. Like epically, morbidly fat. Like she couldn’t even get out of bed, because she was so fat. So, she’s fat, and she’s dating these guys on the internet, because she has a laptop and literally can’t leave her bedroom, right? So she sits there, fat as can be, and like, gives them these pictures of models she pretends to be while she downs a crate of Haagen-Daz.”
Jensen snorts. “Sounds pretty epic.”
“It was. Dr. Phil had his hands full, literally.”
“Did he help her?”
“I don’t know. I think he hired a crane to help pull her out of bed or something.”
“Yeah, I thought so.” A moment passes before Misha asks, “So… you coming home?”
“I think so. In a day or so. Haven’t gotten around to telling my parents I dropped out.”
“Of your classes,” Misha corrects.
“Yes, Misha. Dropped out of my classes,” he rolls his eyes, like it really needs to be said that he’s not dropping out of school altogether.
“Good. Yeah. You’ll let me know when you head out?”
“K, cool. Stay strong, dude,” Misha says, all faux bravado before his tone takes a softer turn. “It will all work out.”
It’d better, Jensen thinks. Instead, he settles on, “Thanks.”
Chris, technically, knows about Jared. He knows about him in that Jensen was walking through life like he had a ring on his finger, like he was married to Jared and would he would be waking up any day now. He’d transferred to Tech because it seemed like everyone at UT knew his story, that they all pitied him or pretended to understand.
He hadn’t gone to Tech expecting to find someone, but Chris waited out the patient months before Jensen finally let him take him out on a date, and held fast while he and Jensen took baby steps. Chris didn’t fix everything, didn’t heal the gaping hole in his heart, but he did ease the loneliness a bit. He taught him that he could care about someone other than Jared, that he could let someone other than Jared care about him. It isn’t the same, but it’s something.
On their previous dates, Jensen pretty much had bypassed the subject altogether, pulling him on top of him and pulling him in. But now, pacing across the carpet of his parents’ living room, he knows he has to tell Chris, knows he owes him at least that much.
“Dude, what is it?” Chris asks, the patience in his voice wearing thin with worry. Jensen closes his eyes and adjusts his grip on the phone, his palms sweaty and slippery.
Inhaling shakily, he blurts, “It’s about Jared.”
“Yeah, Jared,” Jensen breathes, the mere mention of the name stealing his breath away.
“Jen… what about him?”
“He woke up.”
There’s a pause on the line before Chris finally speaks. “Oh. Wow. Like… woke up woke up?”
“Jensen wow, that’s,” Chris stops for a second, like the right word isn’t coming to him. “That’s great.”
“How is he?” Chris questions, an edge of an ulterior motive sneaking in behind the façade of genuine curiosity.
“He’s… better,” Jensen phrases awkwardly. “I don’t know. I visited him this weekend, tried to anyway.”
Unconsciously, Chris’s voice changes. “Oh. Yeah? In Richardson?”
“Yeah, and he. He was pretty out of it,” Jensen rushes. “Well. Really out of it. But his brother, he said he was doing better, like a lot better. I don’t. I just don’t really know.”
“When did this happen? When did he wake up?”
“Um… about six weeks ago.”
“Six weeks?” Chris repeats, disbelief evident.
“I didn’t go up until this weekend,” Jensen defends quickly, pleading. “I know I should have told you sooner, but I… I couldn’t.”
“Bullshit you couldn’t,” Chris snaps before inhaling deeply, regaining some of his temper. “I mean six weeks, Jensen? You couldn’t manage to tell me in six weeks?”
“I was a mess, Chris. I needed some time to deal.”
“Look, I’m sorry. I know it was shitty of me. But I never meant to not tell you. I really didn’t. I was just freaked out, and… I‘m sorry.”
The silence on the line extends far enough that Jensen wonders if their call got disconnected, but eventually Chris concedes. “You still in Richardson?”
“Yeah, for a couple more days, probably. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
“… So what are you going to do now?” Chris asks, a level of uncertainty Jensen isn’t accustomed to hearing lurking beneath.
“I don’t know,” he admits sheepishly. “Let you know when I do?”
Jensen can hear his boyfriend swallow audibly, can feel the second he gives in and nods. It’s a small victory, but it’s one Jensen will take.
Night falls without Jensen’s permission, shading his environment with a darkness that makes facing his thoughts unavoidable. He wants not for the first time to etch himself out of existence, to leave the world and its pity and its challenges behind and never look back. Right now, it’s all too much, the internal battle he’s been waging for months amidst the outward world that keeps spinning on without him.
He isn’t a good person, he knows that much for sure. He isn’t strong enough to deal with this, isn’t strong enough to confront the brittle hope he had that Jared would be okay, that he would be perfect and completely like the Jared he has always known. He knew better than that, he knows better than that, than to bypass years of medical reality on the offhanded belief that Jared is the exception.
He’d been greedy, praying for miracles beyond the miracle of Jared waking up. Jared is alive; Jared is awake. It’s the most he could ever ask for; anything else, anything beyond that is a blessing in of itself.
Until the phone rings half past midnight, the world had been successful in leaving him to hate himself in isolation. With his willpower months past shot, however, Jensen doesn’t even try to pretend he isn’t interested. Swatting heavily at the pretentious Blackberry on his bedside table, he swoops the receiver to his ear, squinting at the harsh light in his Cave of Darkness.
“Hello?” he answers, voice gritty with hours of disuse, the thought occurring to him on the second syllable that he didn’t bother to check to see who is calling.
“Jensen? Hey. It’s Jeff.” Jared’s brother, Jensen’s mind drones automatically, the product of countless calls following that same script. Jeff deviates from the near-automated greeting, however, pausing for a moment before continuing with an edge of uncertainty. “Can we talk?”
Despite every fiber of Jensen’s being that screams no, he inhales deeply and, despite himself, says, “Yes.” And maybe that’s giving himself too much credit, because Jensen is pretty sure what actually comes out of his mouth is some off-kilter hybrid of “sure” and “yes,” possibly “yeah,” too, because it comes out something like “yeseahsure.”
Jeff doesn’t seem to mind. “Oh. Good. That’s good,” he mumbles, seemingly more to himself than anyone else. “It’s just… I mean. I saw you visited Jared today.”
“I… uh. Yeah. Sort of.”
“I mean, I didn’t really stay,” Jensen croaks, anxiety punctuating the weak excuse. “Long. I didn’t stay long.”
“Yeah, I figured,” Jeff sighs, though no signs of anger bubble at the surface. “Pretty sure I went to go get a cup of coffee and a Snickers bar and you had already came and went.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I just-”
“I’m not… I’m not accusing you, Jensen. I’m just saying. You saw Jared today.”
A breathy laugh crackles on the line, though no real humor is evident. “Of course you picked today.”
Jensen furrows his brow, not following. “What do you mean?”
“Jared was fucking out of it today,” Jeff says, as if it’s the only fact that matters. “PT was really hard on him, made him really sore, and the fucking doctors dosed him up on some shit, knowing damn well how confused it makes him. I’d be surprised if he even knew he was awake, knowing how out of it he was.”
It’s a swift kick to the gut, but a welcomed epiphany that Jared’s state was painkiller-induced. “Oh.”
“He was out of it, right? When you saw him?”
“Yeah,” Jensen swallows hard. “Really out of it. I thought… I just couldn’t. You know. It was too much.”
“I wasn’t lying to you when I said he’s doing well, Jensen.” Jeff’s voice is quiet, unexpectedly laced with empathy and understanding. It makes Jensen’s eyes burn with the promise of tears, and he closes his eyes around the threat.
“I know,” he whispers, body aching with the weight of regret. “I didn’t think you were, I just. I just thought that maybe I expected too much, you know, that. That I was just thinking he’d be better because I wanted him to be, and I. I shouldn’t have left, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t.”
“I’m not blaming you,” Jeff says, voice calm and warm in contrast to Jensen’s hurried jumble of words. “I was just saying. You saw him today.”
Jensen inhales deeply. “I saw him today.”
“You saw him today, one day, and you’re going to see him tomorrow and it will be a different day. I promise you, it will be a different day.”
“You can,” Jared’s brother interrupts him, patiently knowing. “You can and you will and you’ll see for yourself that he’s Jared and that you can believe me when I say that, okay? Because who you saw today wasn’t Jared. It wasn’t and it never will be again, you understand me?” Voice shaking with intensity and conviction, Jeff pauses. “You’re gonna see, Jensen. You’ll see.”
“Okay,” Jensen agrees around the lump in his throat. “Yeah, okay.”
“I’ll pick you up,” Jeff says resolutely. It isn’t a question. “Around three. We’ll grab some coffee and head up there after he finishes with speech.”
“Alright? Sound doable?”
“Yeah,” Jensen nods, feeling everything and nothing all at once. “Yeah, it does.”
“Good. Well. Get some sleep and I’ll see you in the afternoon.”
“Okay, yeah. Thanks Jeff.”
There is a pause at the other end of the line before the older man says, “Don’t mention it.”
And with that the conversation is over, with the promise of the next day hanging heavily over Jensen’s head. It’s past midnight, and the days are bleeding carelessly into each other. He hadn’t visited Jared yesterday, but today, and by someone’s judgment seeing him tomorrow is really seeing him today.
That incoherency is possibly the biggest indicator that Jensen needs to fucking sleep, so he can build some sort of division of time, something to serve between now and then and when. Jensen’s days have always been measured in the periods of sleep that separate them.
With the months of sleepless nights that lie between the night of the accident and now, however, Jensen can’t help but feel like yesterday might have been years ago, when his entire world was perfect and happy and Jared.
Jensen wakes up to a new day, smokes a fist-full of Marlboros, then scrubs off the evidence with apricot spice body wash. He sculpts his hair into tedious perfection, carefully chooses the perfect outfit, then changes his mind three times (okay, four) before being able to look at himself in the mirror and feel somewhat adequate. His store-bought worn cotton shirt works well with the intentionally-unintentionally flattering plaid button-up (purposefully unbuttoned), expensively distressed jeans, and more-expensive-than-they-look brown boots. He looks oblivious to his own good looks, like he threw the look together in a matter of seconds.
It’s reassuring, in a way, to offset all the plans and panicking in his head with an outward appearance of nonchalant casualness.
He waits anxiously for Jeff to pull up and tries to ignore all the ways in which he feels like a teenage girl, nervous for her first date. Jeff honks when he pulls up, but Jensen’s already halfway across the yard, having abandoned all hopes of seeming cool somewhere around the third change of clothing.
“Hey,” he breathes as he slides shotgun into Jeff’s black Neon.
“Well look at you, all Abercrombie & Fitch,” Jeff grins at him, amusement crinkling the corners of his eyes.
“Shut up. It’s… what was clean.”
“Whatever, dude.” Jensen glares at him, kicking at the cramped leg space between the seat and dashboard. “Coffee? I was promised coffee.”
“We’ll get there.”
“Okay, I don’t think you understand. I need coffee, like now.”
Jeff shakes his head in fond disbelief. “No, I getcha. Hold your horses, princess. They have like, gourmet coffee in the lobby. Some foreign shit. One is actually named Jamaican Me Crazy.”
“Sounds positively exotic,” Jensen grumbles sarcastically, blowing a stream of air up the center of his forehead.
“Damn straight. It’s practically a delicacy.”
“Sounds like it,” Jensen smiles, eyes fixed out the window at the sun-soaked terrain whipping past them. It’s warmed familiarity, this sector of the Texan landscape that Richardson holds between its invisible boundaries. It’s home in a way Lubbock has never been, and comfortable in a way Lubbock never will be.
And if Jensen closes his eyes, he can almost believe he isn’t still trying to stitch his life back together with the ashes of everything this place used to be.
The small coffee dive tucked to the back of the nursing home cafeteria isn’t Starbucks, but it’s decent and cheap (free) thanks to Jeff, who insisted on paying. Jensen managed a mumbled thank you, but the too-hot sting of the mocha does little to calm his nerves. His thoughts racing, he locks down, quietly spacing out.
“You alright?” Jeff asks, peering at him curiously from across the small plastic table they are seated at a few feet from the coffee place. Jensen blinks out of his thoughts, drawing a blank look.
“What? Yeah, I’m good.”
“Right.” Jeff raises an eyebrow, unconvinced. “Jensen… If you don’t mind me askin’. What exactly are you afraid of?”
The question catches Jensen off guard, mostly due to the verbalized inference of fear, something he has wound so tightly within himself he didn’t think anyone else could see. His poker face has always been for shit, but the knowledge that the fear rests in the open, that his distance has fooled no one, hits him like a hard right hook.
“I…” he trails off, drawing his brows together. The fear in him isn’t something he has ever named, or cared to explore further. “I don’t know.”
Jeff sighs. “I don’t know what to tell you, man. It jus’ seems like, maybe. You know. Maybe it won’t be this big deal you’re making it out to be, y’know? Maybe if you just get it over with, whatever you’re afraid of, maybe that would be easier.”
“Just tear off the band-aid,” Jensen sighs, eyes drifting unfocused to the sunny day outside the sweeping windows of the cafeteria.
“Yeah.” Pause setting in, Jensen gulps the rest of his cup, wincing as it burns its way down. “I know.”
Oh, how he would kill for a cigarette right about now.
Jeff navigates the nursing home like it’s his to own, turning swift shortcuts and making quick time across the winding carpeted halls. Jensen trails slightly behind him, hands shoved deep in his jean pockets and feet shuffling to keep pace. He watches as the rooms pass them by, most half closed and spilling their individual realities out into the pooled hallways. There’s television, the hushed sounds of people talking, the red blip of lights waiting to flag down nurses… it’s a typical nursing home, but this one holds Jared.
“Come on,” Jeff hisses as they reach Jared’s room, scraping his knuckles over the wooden door before pushing it further ajar and sauntering in like it’s no big deal. Like it’s not everything in the entire fucking world, like the fear and the heart-stopping draw the room house isn’t what Jensen prayed about for months- prays. Is praying about at this very second- God give me strength, please. Please.
“Hey Jare,” Jeff’s cheerful voice cuts through Jensen like a harshly realized reality, sending everything he’s hoped for bleeding into this moment. “Got a visitor.”
Shielded by the wall and casing of the doorway, Jensen remains, frozen out of sight. Anxiety mixes with anticipation, surging his heartbeat quicker and louder in his ears. Everything, absolutely everything, ceases to exist, however, when a familiar voice sounds from within the room.
Yeah. That’s all he says, just that one syllable. Jensen is vaguely conscious of the fact he is shaking, shaking hard, but the familiarity of that voice takes precedence of everything else. It’s Jared. The memory of the exact pitch, of the cadence, of the presence of that voice has been slipping away from Jensen for months, but hearing it now, he can’t believe it had ever escaped him. It’s Jared, clear as he’s ever been.
There is a second, a fraction of a second, really, when Jeff steps aside and Jensen’s frame of sight is expanded tenfold. The room is bright, bathed with warmth through the blind-drawn windows, but in that split-second reveal, Jensen’s attention finds the figure seated on the bed, propped up by the inclined mattress and a number of pillows.
It isn’t surprising, really. Before anything else, Jensen has always been able to find Jared.
Jensen is pretty sure his body is shaking at near-convulsion status, that his legs are about to give out at him at any second. None of that matters, though, none of it, because all Jensen sees is Jared, awake and alive, and Jared. Jared sees Jensen, too.
It is nothing short of electric when their eyes meet, shocking despite the distance and months that lie between them. Jensen feels it in every inch of his body. And Jared, eyes playing bright and conscious, breaks Jensen in a way only he can. He smiles, wide and bright, and it’s all it takes to numb Jensen into understanding.
Jared is alive. Jared is awake. Jared is Jared. Nothing else matters.
His steps toward Jared are ambling, awkward and edging on staggering, but even his near-faceplant over an awkwardly placed table can’t rip his eyes away from Jared. He jolts to a stop as his thighs hit the plastic casing of the hospital bed, mesmerized with the proximity and tangibility between them.
Eyes wide, Jensen reaches out, cautiously with one hand, and is somehow honest-to-God surprised when his fingers touch warm flesh over the soft flex of Jared’s forearm. It isn’t a mirage, isn’t a dream… isn’t in any way anything but real.
“Oh god,” Jensen chokes around an automatic whisper, unable to stop himself from pitching forward and draping his upper half over Jared’s. It’s an awkward angle, with the low railing of the bed digging painfully into his hip and Jared sitting upright. Face resting over the lean padding under Jared’s ribs, he closes his eyes as the thin fabric of Jared’s hospital gown absorbs and rehashes dampness back to Jensen’s tear-slicked face.
He can feel the light rippling of Jared’s muscles as he shifts slightly to gain better position, curling an arm around Jensen’s shoulders, gentle but sure. Opening his eyes, Jensen gazes at the younger man in awe, heart clenching at the waterlogged grin on his face.
“Hey,” Jared exhales a trembling breath, half disbelieving laugh and half pure joy. Drinking in every detail, from the way his hair falls in his face to the tired sketch of dark circles under his eyes, Jensen is enamored.
Shyly, Jensen smiles. “Hey.”
Reaching out, Jared rakes a hand over Jensen’s hair, palm resting to cup the back of his head. It’s an innocent gesture, but so intimate at the same time. It’s laced with comfort and a glaring entitlement that settles shallow in Jensen’s chest.
Jared’s hand skims down to the back of his neck, stalling on the first knob of a vertebrae before gently pressing on his back between his shoulder blades. Jensen looks up at him, questioningly.
“Come on,” is all Jared says, all Jared has to say. Weight shifting awkwardly onto weak knees, Jensen takes a moment to catch his standing equilibrium before shifting his weight to the edge of the mattress. It dips, and Jared scoots over to make room for him as he settles in to sit next to him.
It is surreal, but the graze of their arms is undeniable, as is the way Jared instantly opens himself up to pull Jensen in close to his side. The older boy’s breath hitches, and he goes rigid before melting into the embrace. Temples pressed together, Jensen’s eyes slip close.
With Jared, he can ignore the elephant in the room until the world burns down around them.
Jensen can’t quantify the time spent just laying in silence, wrapped around each other like either may disappear otherwise. He isn’t sure when exactly he stopped shaking, or when Jeff left the room. He isn’t sure about much except the reassuring heat of Jared beside him, the way his heartbeat resounds strong and well.
“Jen?” Jared murmurs finally, the sound of his voice still stunning Jensen.
Jensen snorts at the absurdity of the question, considering. “Yeah, Jared. I’m okay.”
Brief silence setting in, he chances a look at Jared. “You, uh. You okay?”
Instantly, Jared upturns the corners of his mouth in an absent smile. “Yeah. Yeah, just. Just glad you’re here, you know.”
“I… sorry about that,” Jensen apologizes lamely, teeth sinking into his bottom lip. “It’s just. With school and everything. I-”
“No, I’m not. I’m not blaming you, Jensen. I just. I mean it, you know. I missed you.”
Warmth floods through Jensen’s body at that, sparking him giddy. “Well shit, Jared. I missed you too.” He feels stupid even saying it, because- hello, most obvious thing ever- but the grin that breaks across Jared’s face is worth it. The sight makes his heart twist, how gorgeous Jared is, even small in a hospital bed.
He wants to pull him in and never let him go, never stop kissing him or looking at him. He wants to immerse himself in Jared, wants to wrap himself up tight in his presence and forget these last few months even happened.
He wants to forget everything… especially how completely, thoroughly fucked he is.
He stays with Jared until nightfall, a quarter til nine when visiting hours are over and Josh comes knocking. He lingers in the doorway, watching the two of them leaning in innocently as they absently watch television. Jared’s eyes are droopy and he keeps falling asleep on Jensen’s shoulder. Jensen meets Josh eyes, and there’s a happiness there, some form of proud consent that Jensen is too drained to dwell on.
“Ready?” he whispers from the doorway.
“Yeah,” Jensen murmurs, shifting under Jared’s weight. Jared grunts unconsciously, arms instinctively grasping.
“Hey, Jare,” Josh smiles. “We gotta go for the night, okay?”
Near where Jensen is easing himself out of bed, Jared frowns, rubbing his eyes with the backs of his fists. “Alright.”
“I’ll be back tomorrow, okay? I’ll see if Meg wants to come up.” Jared’s eyes whip to Jensen’s, questioning. Unable to deny Jared, Jensen manages a reassuring smile and tries not to notice when Jared’s entire body language relaxes back into the mattress. He leans forward, then, skimming his lips across Jared’s temple.
“See you later,” he murmurs, pulling away before Jared has the opportunity to do anything other than grin.
Jensen half-smiles back at him, edging his way into the hallway.
“You guys looked cozy,” Josh elbows Jensen when he catches up, beaming. Jensen grasps at the phone he’s extracted from his pocket, sliding his thumb casually over the name on screen, signaling a missed call. Chris.
Inhaling deeply, he simply replies, “Yeah.”
“Babe, I miss you,” is the first thing Jensen hears come tumbling out of his mouth after Chris answers the phone. He can hear his boyfriend chuckle at that, smiles at the warmth he finds there.
“I miss you too honeybuns.”
Jensen rolls his eyes. “Chris, call me honeybuns again and you’ll be missing something other than me.”
Chris laughs at that, free and genuine. “Aw, baby, I get all hot when you threaten my life like that.”
“I was thinking more your dick, actually.”
“Kinky. You think of my dick often?”
Fondly exasperated, Jensen sighs. “Pretty much.”
“Thought so,” Chris says, smug. “So… phone sex?”
“Come on. It’d be hot.”
“Pretty sure it wouldn’t be.”
Chris sighs, overdramatic, and says, “Well, then you better get your pretty ass into town soon. Been gone what, now? A week?”
“Yeah, pretty close,” Jensen breathes, massaging at his temple.
“What you been up to?”
“Oh, you know,” Jensen drawls. “Typical shit.”
“You with Jared?” Chris asks, voice tight.
“Uh, was,” Jensen purses his lips, nodding his head slightly. “Visiting hours are over.”
“Yeah, I don’t. I mean, he’s doin’ good. A lot better, you know. Than I thought.”
“Great,” Chris says, lacking enthusiasm.
“No, dude, I’m serious- that’s great. I’m happy for him. It’s just. Whatever. You comin’ back to Lubbock?”
“Uh,” Jensen stalls. “I don’t know. Tuesday?”
“Jen, it is Tuesday.”
“Oh. I meant Thursday, then.”
“How about we settle in the middle and shoot for Wednesday?”
“Chris, there’s no way I’m making it there by tomorrow.”
Chris sighs, frustration evident. “No one said you had to be here for goddamn brunch, Jensen. Just. Come the fuck home.”
I am home, Jensen thinks, but doesn’t dare say aloud. “I promised Jared I’d visit him tomorrow,” he says, which is actually on par with what he was going to say, as far as stupidity goes. “I can head back after, I guess, but. I was serious about Thursday, Chris. Thursday, for sure.”
There’s a pointed silence, and it drones on until Jensen can’t stand it anymore. “Chris?”
“What do you want me to say, Jensen? Go ahead? Have a spectacular day with your boy, there? Now I ain’t mean to be a jerk, but last I checked, you were my boyfriend.”
“I am your boyfriend.”
“Yeah, well it sure don’t feel like it.”
Jensen closes his eyes, inhaling deeply and counting to three. “I’ll be there by Thursday. I promise.”
“It’s fine, Jensen. Seriously. I’ll see you then.”
Hesitating, Jensen nods. “Okay… yeah, okay.”
“So I’m coming back tomorrow,” Jensen announces into the receiver, tucking his Blackberry between his shoulder and jaw line as he works to button his shirt.
“Really? So does that mean no more drunken orgies in your bed?”
“Unless I’m invited,” Jensen smiles absently.
“Oh, baby- you’re invited, but I ain’t sharin’,” Misha deadpans, faking lust. “Damn. That was good. I gay good, right?”
Jensen rolls his eyes, shaking his head in disbelief. “Yeah, Misha. You gay good.”
“Sweet.” The smile is evident in his roommate’s voice. “But seriously. Tomorrow?”
“Yeah. Pretty sure if I don’t Chris is going to blow an artery.”
“Is that some gay sex thing?”
Misha laughs. “Chris pissed?”
“Pretty sure he pulled the I’m your boyfriend, not him card.”
“Oh,” Misha says, pausing. “Is he?”
“Is he what?”
“Your boyfriend and not Jared?”
“I…” Jensen trails off, because isn’t that just the question. “Yes?”
“Well, I…” Jensen tries, giving up on sounding confident nearly immediately. “Shit, Mish, I don’t know.”
“Did you talk about it? With Jared?”
“Well, what’s your gut feeling? If you had to choose.”
“I don’t know.”
“No, come on,” Misha goads. “If you had to choose one- like if you had to make out with one of them for the rest of your life. Like constantly. In front of like, the Pope or something.”
“I don’t know. Like in front of people taunting you about being gay and stuff.”
“Seriously, who? You want me to help you decide? Cause I’ll do it man. I will take one for the team.”
Jensen smiles, rolling his eyes fondly at the ridiculousness of his roommate. “See you tomorrow, Mish.”
Jensen ambles in around two, stopping halfway through the wide open doorway when he realizes the room is vacant. Everything still remains in the room, untouched, except for Jared. A brief bit of panic surges in his chest, the instantaneous assumption that something must be wrong, but it quickly subsides at the light clattering he hears in the hallway and the familiar cadence of Jared’s voice.
“Good timing,” Jensen smiles wide as Jared walks towards him, walker stabilizing his quick steps. A woman stands at his arm, hand hovering inches away in case she needs to steady him.
“Yeah,” Jared smiles wide, out of breath. Suddenly, he stops, easing the walker to the side.
“Jared,” the woman warns, instantly placing an arm at his back.
“S’okay,” Jared says, reaching his hands straight out towards Jensen. Jensen smiles unsurely, taking tight hold of them. “Jen’s gonna be a physical therapist, too.” The pride in Jared’s voice makes Jensen’s smile break even wider as he steadies the shaky steps Jared takes to him.
“Umph,” he breathes, as Jared crashes heavy against his chest, pulling him in for a bear hug. Jensen smiles at the lady, holding Jared tightly with one arm as he offers his hand to the woman, who looks torn between reeling Jared back in and just letting him go.
The woman smiles and nods. “Figured. My name is Rebecca Edwards. I’m Jared’s physiotherapist.”
“Should’a waited a few years,” Jared murmurs with a grin as Jensen helps to steady him outside of the hug. “You could’ve been my PT.”
Jensen rolls his eyes fondly. “Idiot. You waited long enough.” Jared looks up at him, half curiosity and half face-splitting smile, and it’s all Jensen can do not to pull him back in and never let him go.
“They’re thinking of sending me home next week,” Jared casually announces while stuffing half of a dinner roll in his mouth. Jensen stops forking through the bag of Gardettos Jeff left in the room and looks up at him.
“Yeah. I mean, I’ll have like a home nurse and therapists and stuff, but I’ll be home.”
“That’s awesome,” Jensen says, crunching down on a pretzel. “Seems a little soon.”
“Soon?” Jared repeats, incredulous. “I’ve been up here over a month and a half.”
“A year and a half,” Jensen corrects on gut impulse, too fast for his brain to catch up. “You’ve been up here over a year and a half.”
The look on Jared’s face is nothing short of stricken, like the reality they’ve been dancing around has surfaced itself all too apparent.
“I know,” he murmurs quietly. “I can’t. I can’t even like… process it, you know?”
“Yeah,” Jensen nods, voice equally muted. He lived those months Jared spent unconscious and even he can’t really conceptualize what it meant. Sitting here with Jared, it’s easy to believe the time never passed, that they are the same two kids that they were back then. It’s not true, Jensen knows that much, he just isn’t sure if it even matters.
“You’re different,” Jared says out of nowhere, tilting his head and gazing at him oddly.
Jensen is jolted upright, entire body tensing like he has just been caught doing something he shouldn’t. Swallowing thickly, he tries to fake calm, though he knows his wide eyes give him away. “What do you mean?”
The corner of the younger boy’s lip turns upwards, but there is a sadness in the smile. “I don’t know. You’re older. Wiser, maybe. I don’t know.”
Jensen smirks, trying to portray a distant confidence. “Honey, I’m older, but I don’t know about wiser.” The angle of Jared’s lip quirks upwards a bit further, but Jensen isn’t dense enough to not notice the uncertainty etched around his eyes.
“You okay?” he asks, leaning forward in his chair.
“Yeah,” Jared assures absently, shaking his head. “Yeah, I’m good.” Sinking his teeth into his bottom lip, Jensen nods, though not entirely convinced.
“I… tell me about yourself, Jen,” Jared’s question breaks hurriedly into the awkward silence. Jensen can count ten thousand reasons that’s a ridiculous statement coming from Jared, the kid who has always known him better than himself. The pleading look in his eyes, though, is such that Jensen can’t say no. Like he ever could.
“Uh,” he swallows. “Well. I, uh. I just turned twenty. I’m a sophomore up at Tech.”
“Tech?” Jared repeats, drawing his eyebrows together. “What happened to UT?”
“I just. It was too close. To home. People… knew everything. At least, you know, they thought they did, and after. After everything I just needed a fresh start.”
“Yeah. At Tech.”
“Isn’t that,” Jared begins, scrunching his nose, “far?”
“Yeah, kinda,” Jensen nods. “Bit over six hours, usually.”
“Yeah, it’s a drive,” Jensen admits absently.
“You like it?”
“S’alright. I don’t know. I’m not like super in love with it or anything. But I got a couple friends. And a roommate. Misha. He lives on my couch.”
Jared smiles at that, and the awkward, heavy air between them is interrupted by a knock at the door.
“Hey,” Jeff says, looking back and forth between the two of them. “How’s it going?”
“Good,” Jared answers, smiling as he’s mobbed by his kid sister, who bounces over to give him a hug, grin wide across her face.
“Yeah,” Jensen agrees, moving to stand. “Hey, you know, I better get going. I kinda promised I’d be heading back to Lubbock tonight.” Jeff eyes him curiously, but nods.
“Oh,” Jared says, disappointment evident across his face. “Okay.”
“I’ll be back,” Jensen reaches to pat his arm reassuringly. “Maybe the next time I see you you’ll be at home, huh?”
“They’re talkin’ Tuesday,” Jeff informs him, meeting his eyes. “If all goes well, we’ll be having a welcome home party next weekend.”
The implication of you better be there isn’t lost on Jensen.