raeschae: (J2 - Padalecki and Ackles)
[personal profile] raeschae


For eleven years, Jared sat in the corner of the classrooms in his old school district, Central, hoping to hell that nobody would notice him and finding wild success with it. For eleven days, he's been doing the same damn thing at North Side High School. There are thirteen miles separating one school from the other but it might as well be the same place as far as Jared's reputation is concerned.

It's nobody's fault but his own. He had the advantage of being the new kid – girls and guys alike were curious and took interest in him for a couple of days – but his inability to find the right thing to say at the right time pitched him right back into Loser Land, where he spends his days eating lunch under a tree on the quad and pretending that he's just bookish, not painfully shy.

If he's looking at the bright side, his old school's curriculum was a little bit behind this one's, so it's been good to have the alone time every day to get caught up on his reading. He likes The Great Gatsby well enough but it's taking more of his concentration than the books he was assigned last year. He needs to catch up. This is for the best.

The only problem is that Jared isn't the most organized guy in the world and he can't find his highlighter in the bottom of his never-ending backpack at the moment. At least there's no one around to see him grow more and more frustrated.

“Here,” a deep voice sounds at his side, yellow highlighter plopping down on the open book in his lap.

Surprised, Jared looks at the visitor and his voice catches in his throat. “Thanks,” is what he means to say. It comes out sounding like a choked little whine. Awesome way to make a first impression on the hottest guy in his new class.

Jensen Ackles just sits and looks out over the quad, arms resting casually on his upturned knees. His eyes are shielded by mirrored aviators but he's smirking, so Jared counts it as a pseudo-win. He's not outright laughing so that's something.

“You settlin' in alright?”

God, Jared wants to answer. He wants to say 'yeah, it's fine' or 'no, nobody talks to me' but nothing sounds cool enough so he just settles for nodding, eyes focused on his book without actually seeing any of the words.

“Some unsolicited advice, dude?” Jensen doesn't wait for Jared to answer before he says, “Easier to make friends if you actually move closer to the people.” He nods toward the other kids lounging in groups around the courtyard. Leaning over, he then sniffs at Jared's shoulder and smiles. “I mean, you don't stink or anything. Good-lookin' guy like you? Shouldn't be a problem.”

Jared can feel the heat that starts in his neck and bleeds up to his cheeks then down to his chest. “They're kind of intimidating,” he admits, like they're friends or something.

With a shrug, Jensen straightens and drops his head back, face tipped to the sun. “You should see 'em drunk.”

Admitting that his only exposure to drunk people is limited to his dad and uncles at Thanksgiving seems lame, so Jared doesn't say anything. He taps Jensen's highlighter against the edge of his book and wishes that he had something to offer to this conversation. It would be pretty cool if someone as popular as Jensen Ackles actually thought he was friend-worthy.

Standing, Jensen wipes his hands over the backs of his thighs and rests a hand against Jared's shoulder. “Take a chance, man. Get to know some people.”

He's taken about three steps when Jared blurts, “Your highlighter,” like a master conversationalist.

Jensen stops and casts a glance over his shoulder, tongue traveling his bottom lip in a way that is far more attractive than Jared thinks it should be. “Tell ya what,” Jensen smiles, pivoting and tucking his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “You know who Danneel Harris is?”

“Does anybody not know who Danneel is?” Jared asks automatically, feeling like a tool before the words are even out of his mouth. Seriously, though? Danneel is the student body president and all-around It Girl at North Side. Jared's only been here a couple of weeks but he's well aware of who Danneel Harris is.

“Guess not,” Jensen says, smile growing at the idea that Jared actually knows someone. “Buncha people are hangin' out at her place tonight. Why don't you bring my highlighter back to me there?”

It's a school night and there is no way that Jared's parents are going to let him go to a party when they haven't even met Danneel's parents. Still, Jensen is looking at him like he expects Jared to say 'no' and he doesn't want to be the kid who looks too scared to try something new. He doesn't know how he's going to get out of the house and over to Danneel's, but he hears himself saying, “Okay,” anyway.

The proud grin that Jensen shoots before he heads back toward the building is more than worth it.





Convincing his parents that he was going to be studying late at the university library was easier than Jared thought it was going to be. But, now that he's here at Danneel's, he's wondering if maybe he should have actually gone that route instead.

There hasn't been any trouble or anything – people have actually been really friendly to him – but Jared just doesn't feel like he fits. He's never done anything like this before, never been big into parties or dancing or drinking. He knows that it's what people his age are supposed to do and everything, but he hasn't exactly been afforded a wealth of opportunities. Now that he’s been given the chance, he doesn't know what to do with himself.

Mostly, he sits on the couch and tries not to look like the creepy, staring kid that he feels like he is. It's hard not to watch Danneel making out with Katie Cassidy over by the stereo or to notice that Misha Collins is passing a joint with a couple of guys that Jared recognizes but can't name out on the porch. He's lost count of the number of beers he's turned down already and he's only been here for a half hour.

“Jared, right?”

He looks up to see Genevieve Cortese, a petite little thing from his Physics class, dropping onto the couch at his side. There's no one else on the couch but she seems to think that squishing up against his side is the best plan of attack.

“Yeah,” he mutters, hands twisting in his lap as he mangles a smile in her direction.

“Someone holdin' a gun to your back or somethin'?” She turns around, kneels on the couch and tries to look between it and the wall, as though she's actually looking for someone with a gun fixed on the back of Jared's seat. It's possible she's a little drunk.

“No,” Jared laughs a little as he shakes his head. “No, I'm just not-” He stops speaking and clears his throat, shifting awkwardly in his seat. “This isn't really my scene, I guess.”

With a roll of her eyes, Genevieve throws an arm around his shoulder. “Trust me, man. There are, like, three people here who actually feel like they fit in. The rest of us just get drunk enough to forget that we don't.” She pulls her arm back and sips from the red, plastic cup in her hand. “So what's your story, Jared? Tell me about you.”

Before Jared can tell her that there's nothing interesting to say about himself, someone sinks to the arm of the couch and leans heavily against his side. Thanks to their little conversation earlier, Jared knows the scent of Jensen, and he may be smiling a little brighter when he turns to see him, sans sunglasses this time, grinning back.

“You came,” Jensen announces as though Jared doesn't realize he's here. Jensen takes a long drink from his cup and then licks his lips obscenely before he smacks a hand against the center of Jared's chest. “I gotta go talk to Misha for a sec. Don't you move your sweet ass, Padalecki. I'll be back in, like, five. Possibly ten.” He jumps up and spins, stumbling a little and pointing. “I mean it. Be here when I get back.”

“Word of advice,” Genevieve says, resting her head against Jared's shoulder until he turns his attention back to her. “Jensen's not really the kinda guy you wanna put too much stock in, okay?”

Instead of admitting that Genevieve is remotely right, Jared just shakes his head and gives her a good-natured smile. “I'm not putting any stock in him,” he explains, laughing like it's the craziest thing he's ever heard. “I just. He invited me.”

“I'm sure he did,” she nods. “I mean, he's a good guy, Jared. Life of the party and everybody loves him and everything. He's just. He's not exactly the most focused guy in the world, ya know?” Jared's expression apparently says that he's not following. “Party with him or whatever but keep your eyes open. That's all I'm sayin'. Be aware of who he is before he sucks you into his vortex.”

With that advice, she bounces off of the couch and disappears into the crowd, leaving Jared to wonder what in the hell she was even talking about in the first place.

Sure, Jensen's out there puffing and passing with Misha right now, chugging from a seemingly endless cup of beer in between tokes, but he's the first person who has gone out of his way to welcome Jared to their school, to even notice that he sits alone at lunch and needs help making friends. It's not like he's falling in love with the guy or anything. He's just hanging out and meeting new people.

For another twenty minutes, Jared sticks to his place on the couch. It's not because he has to, not because Jensen told him to; he just doesn't have anywhere else to go. What's he going to do? Wander off into the den to watch the basketball game with the guys who aren't feeling up girls in one of the upstairs bedrooms?

“Hey, you,” Jensen announces when he finally drops onto the couch and smacks his hand onto Jared's thigh, leaving it there as he lets out a deep, sticky sweet breath. “You, my friend, are very attractive. Did you know that?”

Jared just huffs a short laugh. “And you are very drunk,” he responds, paying no attention whatsoever to the way Jensen's hand climbs higher on his leg or the way his nose brushes the edge of Jared's jaw.

“I might be,” Jensen concedes, lips dangerously close to Jared's ear. “But that doesn't make me blind. And it certainly doesn't make you ugly.”

Jared's almost sure that Jensen is going to kiss him and he's almost sure that he's going to let it happen. Then he pulls back and laughs, moving his hand from Jared's leg to his arm and then down to his hand. “You need a drink.”

Shaking his head, Jared says, “Nah, man, I'm okay.”

Gripping his chin in one tight hand, Jensen turns Jared's face to his and nods. “You are sitting sober in a corner at a fucking party, man. You're not okay.”

When he puts it like that, Jared can't help feeling like more of a freak than he did before Jensen sat down. He doesn't want to be the weirdo who's scared to have one beer for fear that his parents will know he wasn't at the library.

Something about what Genevieve said is sticking in the back of his mind, though. He's not going to be the guy who changes who he is because some hot kid in his class shows him a little bit of attention. That's ridiculous.

“I'm fine,” he insists, shifting a little for distance he desperately needs to keep his sanity. His thigh is hot where it's pressed against Jensen's, and Jared is having enough trouble remembering to breathe, let alone how to just say no.

Jensen leans back in, humming against his ear again. “Yes, you are,” he agrees, hand snaking under the hem of Jared's tee shirt to rub at the soft skin on his belly. “You wanna head upstairs? Get to know each other a little better?”

Fuck, yes, Jared wants to go upstairs and get to know Jensen better. So it's probably for the best that some guy Jared doesn't recognize stops in front of the couch and pulls Jensen up by the hand and into a tight hug that lifts Jensen's feet off the ground.

“Who's your friend, Jensen?” the guy asks.

Jensen blinks a couple of times and then shakes his head, arm draped over this guy's shoulder while he points to Jared. “Aldis, this is Jared. Jared, Aldis Hodge. Aldis, man, isn't Jared fucking hot?”

“Yeah, he's dreamy,” Aldis rolls his eyes. Making his way to his feet, Jared accepts the hand that Aldis offers. “Nice to meet you, man,” Aldis smiles, turning his attention back to Jensen. “You seen Kane? I been lookin' everywhere for him.”

With a nod, Jensen smacks Aldis' chest. “Yes,” he exclaims. “He was watchin' the game in the other room,” he points toward the hall. “Probably still is, if he's not gettin' laid already.”

They laugh together like old friends, like they share a bond that Jared's never really experienced with anyone, and it sends a jolt of something akin to jealousy and longing down Jared's spine. He doesn't know what he was thinking, showing up in this place that he clearly doesn't belong, but he needs to head home before his parents start to suspect he's not actually studying.

“Come on, Jared,” Jensen pulls away from Aldis and hooks an arm around Jared's neck again. “Let's get you a drink and meet some new people.”

“Man, I gotta get goin',” Jared tells him, pulling Jensen's highlighter out of his pocket and holding it out. It's not smooth and Jensen looks like he has no idea what the hell it is so Jared kind of wishes he'd just hung on to it until tomorrow at school. If Jensen even shows up at school; he may be too hungover to bother. “You loaned it to me,” he explains.

Jensen's smile is blinding when he remembers. “At school,” he snaps his fingers as he shoves the highlighter into his back pocket. “Thanks, man. I totally forgot I even gave it to ya.”

It probably shouldn't punch Jared in the gut like it does, but knowing that Jensen just shrugged off the loan bothers him a little. Makes him feel forgettable or something. “Yeah, well, thanks. It was-” He stops and chuckles to himself because, even in his own head, it sounds ridiculous. “It helped.” That doesn't make him sound any better.

Leaning forward, Jensen grabs the back of his neck and kisses him, dry and hard and quick. “Man, I wish you could stay.” He waves at someone over Jared's shoulder and then squeezes his shoulder. “I'm glad you came, though.”

Even though he leaves before Jared can return the sentiment, Jared silently thinks that he's glad he came, too.





It's Friday afternoon and Jared hasn't seen Jensen since Tuesday night at Danneel's. He tries to keep himself busy and remember that they're not best friends or anything – Jared doesn't even have his phone number – but he'd be lying if he said he's not a little disappointed. Maybe Jensen was just drunk on Tuesday night, but he made Jared feel like he belonged somewhere. That's not an easy feat and it's one that Jared appreciates more than it would be cool to say.

Since the party, Genevieve has been joining him in the courtyard for lunch. Sometimes she brings a friend or two and sometimes she comes alone. It feels a little like charity but it's good to have a friend and Jared's certainly not going to turn it away in favor of sitting alone like a giant loser.

“Do you have your History take-home test with you?” Genevieve asks around a large bite of Jared's chicken salad sandwich. He doesn't mind sharing; his mom's a good cook and having less to eat at lunch is a small price to pay for having someone to hang out with at lunch.

Jared digs in his backpack and withdraws a folder, flicking his wrist in her direction. “My essays are weak but I know the multiple choice answers are right,” he tells her, eyes flitting around the yard until they fall on Jensen, walking toward them with his ever-present aviators in place.

“You're a lifesaver,” Genevieve says, swallowing hard before launching into her own bag to find her test. Jensen's shadow falls over them and she looks up with a long-suffering smile. “Ackles.”

Jensen barely spares her a glance before he drops to Jared's other side. “So, I'm told I should apologize for mauling you the other night.”

Shaking his head, Jared reaches for his water bottle and takes a long swallow before he says, “No problem, man.” He thinks he maybe sounds too eager but that could also be because Genevieve snorts at his side, her eyes still trained on copying his homework.

“Man, if I made you uncomfortable at all,” Jensen goes on, but Jared just holds up a hand to interrupt him.

“You didn't,” he insists, maybe a little more firmly than he intended.

Jensen's lip curls into a soft grin and something about it seems knowing even though Jared can't see his eyes. “Well, alright then,” he nods, turning to face Jared. “So what're ya doin' tonight?”

Fuck, Jared wishes that he could sink into the floor. “Um, nothing,” he lies, even though his parents invited that weird couple across the street and their weirder son over for family game night. He wasn't really looking forward to it anyway, so doing something with Jensen seems much better.

“What's wrong, Ackles? All your other cronies get tired of following you around like a puppy?” Genevieve asks, voice teasing and light.

Jensen flips her off and shakes his head. “I can never have too many faithful followers, Cortese,” he flings back with a bright smile.

When he turns his attention back, Jared shifts a little under his gaze. As much as he's starting to like Jensen's eyes on him, it's a little intense still. “So, what's goin' on tonight?” Jared asks, kicking himself for how small he sounds.

“My friend Chris is playin' at this bar downtown. You should definitely come check it out.”

“To a bar?” Jared wishes he could stop sounding like such a sheltered little kid but honestly, nobody's ever even wanted to get him into a bar. He doesn't have a fake I.D. or anything like that.

Jensen chuckles and ruffles Jared's hair in a way that is not at all helpful to his self esteem at the moment. “Meet me out back at seven thirty. We'll be the roadies. They never card the roadies.”

Shoving Jensen away, Jared runs a hand over his head to smooth whatever damage he did. “I can definitely do that.”

He absolutely can’t do that, but Jared likes to believe that, if he wants something enough, the fates will find a way to let him have it. Even in his head, it sounds immature and naïve but Jared doesn’t care. Jensen is one of the coolest guys he’s ever met.

The way he slaps Jared’s back as he leaps up from the ground only solidifies Jared’s opinion. “Awesome. I’ll see ya tonight.”

Jared watches until he’s gone and only remembers that he’s not alone when he hears Genevieve giggling at his side. “What?” he asks, cheeks burning at the implication of her wiggling eyebrows. “Shut up.”

She shakes her head and hands Jared’s test back to him. “I think it’s cute.”

“But I should be careful?” Jared rolls his eyes at the soap opera nature of this conversation. “What? Does Jensen not “do” relationships or something?” he asks, complete with dorky, quotey fingers.

“No, he does,” Genevieve is quick to correct. “Sometimes, I guess.” Her brow furrows as she tries to work through how she wants to say this. “Jensen really is a good guy, Jared. He’s cool with pretty much everybody. It’s just that not everyone can keep up with him, ya know? And sometimes you can lose yourself trying.”

It sounds like she’s speaking from personal experience but the lack of animosity between Genevieve and Jensen says otherwise. Still, it resonates. This idea of trying to run just to keep up with someone who’s already miles ahead of him feels like exactly the same thing Jared’s been doing most of his life. He’s shy, not stupid. Also, Genevieve’s warnings aren't exactly subtle.

“Don’t worry about me.” He throws an arm around her shoulder in a gesture that doesn’t feel at all uncomfortable until he thinks about how new it is for him to actually touch someone before they touch him. Still, he leaves his arm where it is when she leans into his side a little bit instead of pushing him away. “I’m not gonna do anything stupid just because Jensen’s hot, okay?” He tilts his head to rest his cheek on the top of her head.

She’s quiet for a moment, just sitting in the stillness beside him. “Dammit, he is smokin’ hot, though,” she finally says.

And, really, what is Jared supposed to do with that? Disagree?





By the time second period rolls around on Monday, Jared is wishing he was dead. He tried everything he could think of to get out of that stupid game night on Friday, going as far as to beg his parents to please let him have just one friend – without telling them where he was planning on going with said friend – before they patiently reminded him that they already made plans and he could go out with his friends some other time.

Jensen nodded at him in the hall this morning but Jared couldn’t bring himself to meet his eye. He said he was going to be there and he wasn’t. Jensen has to think he’s the lamest loser in the world.

He jumps a little when Aldis leans against the locker next to Jared’s. “What’s up, Padalecki?” he asks.

It’s probably not cool that Jared feels a surge of pride when Aldis refers to him by his last name. That’s how all of Jensen’s friends talk to each other. “Nothin’,” he finally answers when Aldis cocks his head and watches Jared like he might be a little slow or something. “I’m good,” he adds, thinking that he sounds anything but cool.

Aldis just chuckles and shakes his head like Jared just told the best joke in the world. “Missed you Friday night, man. Ackles said you were gonna be there.”

It takes everything he has not to swallow his own tongue or something equally embarrassing when Aldis pushes off the locker and heads down the hall with him. “Something came up,” he says, his voice weak and hesitant.

Aldis just nods, though, and then shrugs his shoulders. “Hey, man, no big. Shit happens, right? But listen, some guy Jensen’s all hard for wrote this new book and he’s doin’ a signing at Borders this afternoon so we’re gonna go check it out if you wanna come with.”

“Yeah, of course,” Jared answers before he can stop himself. He might look eager but what the hell? He’s actually being invited to do something.

At the doorway of the Physics room, Aldis stops and says, “Jensen's drivin', so just meet us out there at his car after fifth, okay?”

He ducks into the classroom and Jared doesn't even process that their school day has six periods. Hanging out with Jensen and his friends is going to require cutting a class, something Jared has never even thought about doing. He hears Genevieve's voice in the back of his head, Keep your eyes open, but he already flaked on them once. Aldis said they missed him and Jared doesn't want them to notice his absence again.





The signing was kind of a bust as far as Jared is concerned but he feels a little better knowing that Jensen is the only one who really wanted to stand in line for the thing. The rest of them – Jared, Aldis, Danneel, Katie, and Misha – had wandered around Borders, ordered coffee, and read each other excerpts from trashy romance novels. Well, the others read and Jared hung back and laughed, hoping they didn’t ask him to take a turn. Hanging out with them is fun, but dramatically reading some bodice ripper in the middle of the bookstore isn’t exactly his thing.

When everyone decided to stop for dinner on the way home, Jared sent his mom a text and told her that he was helping a friend study after school. He didn’t feel guilty about lying until she sent him a response with a little <3 at the end. It’s easy to forget the guilt, though when he’s pressed between Jensen and the wall in this oversized booth, waiting for the waitress to bring their food.

“So what happened to you the other night, Padalecki?” Katie asks, playing with Danneel’s fingers against the table top while her eyes drill into Jared’s, making him shift uncomfortably.

Jensen throws an arm around the back of his booth and tosses a straw wrapper at Katie. “That was three days ago. Let it go already,” he insists, rolling his head to look at Jared’s profile. He’s sitting close enough that Jared can feel Jensen’s breath on his face and Jared’s pretty sure he’s blushing like a little schoolgirl. “He’s here now. That’s what’s important, right?”

It take Jared a second to realize that Jensen is talking to him. When he does catch on, he licks his lips and reaches a shaking hand to his water glass and nods hesitantly. He had a great time with Aldis and Misha earlier, even told a few jokes that made Misha laugh, but now that Jensen’s attention is focused on him, he’s losing it. He’s going to screw this up so royally that he’s already preemptively hating himself for it.

“So, Jared,” Misha jumps in to help, “you went to Central before, right?”

Jared nods. He should say more, offer more information or something, but he just doesn’t know what. What in the world could these awesome people with exciting lives want or need to know about him? He’s boring and lonely and weird. These don’t seem like selling points.

“So, what moved you across town, man?” Aldis asks, smiling at the waitress when she interrupts the conversation to deliver their dinner.

It takes a few minutes to get everything sorted and squared away, so when Danneel presses, “So why’d you move to North Side, Jay?” Jared had almost forgotten there was a question on the table.

He shrugs and finishes chewing the first of his steaming French fries, washing them down with a large swallow of his coke before he answers. “My dad got a promotion last spring. About the same time, this house he and my mom always wanted to buy went on the market so they decided to go for it,” he explains.

“There’s a tuition-free option for seniors, ya know?” Katie doesn’t sound snotty when she says it. She sounds like she’s genuinely wondering why Jared didn’t opt to stay at his old school.

It’s true that the county has a policy wherein any student who has attended the same institution for the duration of his high school career can opt to stay at that school, tuition free, in the event his parents move out of the district but remain in the county. Jared knows it by heart, as many times as his parents read it to him when enrollment came around for this year.

Telling these people that he didn’t want to stay at Central because he didn’t have any more friends there than he does here isn’t exactly something he can do, so he just eats another fry and shrugs.

Like the godsend that he is, Jensen jumps in with, “I used to date a girl at Central.” He grabs an onion ring from Aldis’ plate and lets it hang off of the end of his tongue until Aldis tries to take it back. Chewing, Jensen leans heavier against Jared’s side and, when he swallows, he adds, “D’you know Joanna Krupa?”

Jared nearly chokes on his burger. “You dated Joanna Krupa?”

Joanna is to the Central student body what Danneel is to North Side’s. The key differences between them, so far as Jared can tell, are that Joanna is taller, blonder, and louder. It probably makes sense that Jensen dated her.

“I forgot she went to Central,” Misha nods thoughtfully, tapping a French fry against his chin. “What ever happened to fair Joanna?”

When Jensen’s hand finds his knee under the table, Jared almost misses the answer. “Turns out, we weren’t so compatible,” he shrugs, hand sliding further up Jared’s leg. Jensen is somehow managing to look like everything is totally normal above the table. Maybe it is for him, but Jared’s not used to hot guys feeling him up during dinner.

“Aw, poor Jenny. Did you just want different things?” Danneel teases.

Aldis laughs into his hand and then drags his fork through the river of gravy in the top of his mashed potatoes. “More like they wanted the same damn thing,” he smirks.

Jared flushes at the implication, cursing himself for being such a child. Katie and Danneel roll their eyes at the joke, even though Danneel’s the one that brought it up.

Misha seems to be the only one who thinks on it for a second, and then his eyes widen. “Oh, because you both like a nice, big cock?” he asks just as the waitress comes back to the table.

She gapes for a second and then composes herself. “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

The timing is way funnier than the words she’s saying but Jensen is the only one who manages to shake his head and wave her off while all of his friends dissolve into laughter. For the first time in his life, Jared includes himself in that group of Jensen’s friends.

Being as Jensen leaves his hand on Jared’s thigh for the entire hour they’re sitting at the restaurant, he figures maybe Jensen sees it that way, too.





“I thought you were sick,” Genevieve accuses, dropping next to Jared on the grass during lunch a few weeks later.

Jared squints up at her from flat on his back, shielding his eyes with his arm. “Overslept,” he shrugs easily. Aldis’ dad took Jared and Jensen to a Monday Night football game in Dallas last night. Seven o’clock came way too early this morning.

“Well, you missed a quiz in Lit,” she states, matter-of-fact and a little cold.

Reaching into his backpack without opening his eyes, Jared pulls his giant foam finger out of his bag and throws it in the direction of Genevieve’s voice. “I brought you a souvenir.”

Genevieve huffs but she doesn’t give the gift back or anything. “Did you hear what I said?”

“That I missed a quiz. Yeah, I heard ya. Nothin’ I can do about it now, though, is there?” If Jared wasn’t so exhausted, if his head wasn’t pounding against his skull and begging to go back to sleep, he might care that those pop quizzes account for half of his grade for the semester.

“Scoot over,” Jensen demands, all but falling onto Jared’s side. “Mornin’ Cortese,” he greets, handing a pair of aviators like his to Jared before folding his hands behind his head. “You left these in my car.”

For the record, Jared did not buy sunglasses just like Jensen’s in an attempt to be more like him. It was Jensen who suggested Jared try them on at the mall last weekend and Jensen who convinced him to buy them when he said Jared looked too good not to wear them all the time. The fact that he spent more of his savings on them than he’s usually allowed to spend in a month, it’s a damn good thing he looks awesome in them.

He slides his sunglasses over his eyes and goes back to chasing the sleep that’s been alluding him since his alarm went off. Truthfully, it does bother him that he missed a pop quiz in English Lit, but Ms. Ferris doesn’t give make-up tests and there really is nothing he can do about it. He’s learning that it’s kind of pointless to worry about the stuff he can’t change.

“Are you too hungover for me to ask you a question?” Genevieve nudges him with her knee.

Jared groans and rolls his head toward her though his thigh and elbow stay firmly pressed against Jensen’s. He’s not actually hungover – he’s still holding to some standards – but he’s not going to bother correcting her if that means he has to open his mouth.

“We’re having a study session at my house tomorrow night. Me and Chad, Gabe, Andy, Sophia,” she starts rattling names that Jared is pretty sure he’s not going to remember in a second. “Pretty sure the midterm that Beaver’s workin’ up for Physics is gonna blow.”

Jared hesitates, eyes cutting to Jensen under his sunglasses but Jensen appears to be out cold. “Um, I don’t know.” He’s not sure how she always manages to make him feel guilty, but Jared’s stomach drops when she nods and refuses to meet his eyes. “Are we doin’ anything tomorrow night?”

“You should go,” Jensen answers, voice rough and sleep-deprived. “Think I’m just gonna sleep for the next week anyway.”

Disappointed as he is, Jared turns to Genevieve and tries to smile genuinely. “I’ll be there.” The way she grins back tells him that Jensen is on to something; hiding his eyes behind these sunglasses makes it a whole lot easier to feign enthusiasm when he’s just not feeling it.





Though they don’t all crowd around Jared’s spot under the tree at lunchtime, Danneel and Misha have started hanging out here with Jensen from time to time. Today, Genevieve made some excuse about studying with her friend, Sandy, so Jared’s grateful for the added company.

“You comin’ tonight, big Jay?” Danneel asks around a potato chip on Wednesday afternoon. She’s the only one who tries, and gets away with, calling him Jay. It’s mostly because she just started doing it; she never bothered with asking.

“Tonight?” Jared asks, gulping a long swig from his water bottle and trying to tell himself that Jensen hasn’t grown very, very rigid at his side. “I’m studyin’ with Genevieve tonight,” he says slowly, afraid to look to his right.

“We’re not doin’ anything tonight either, Danni. Remember?” Jensen asks through clenched teeth, tone scolding and tight.

Danneel’s eyes grow wide and she shakes her head like she’s trying to rid her head of a mistake. “That’s right. I totally forgot. It wasn’t tonight,” she trails off and raises a middle finger to Jensen. “Man, fuck you. If you want me to lie for you, fill me in ahead of time.”

“What’s going on?” Jared asks, feeling naïve and childish like he always does when he doesn’t understand one of the inside jokes that only comes from years of growing up and hanging out together.

Jensen shifts and sits forward, arms resting on his knees. “We’re goin’ up to Chris and Steve’s place to smoke up tonight. I didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable but I know it’s not your thing so I,” he stammers in a way that Jensen never does and then he rolls his shoulders. “I thought you’d be better off at Genevieve’s.”

Jared’s chest feels like it’s on fire as the humiliation of basically being called a giant wimp who can’t make his own decisions spreads through him. He can feel the heat in his ears and he pushes his aviators higher on his nose to make sure none of them can see the hurt in his eyes. Jensen is probably trying to do the right thing by him, but everyone is watching him now and he knows that they all think he can’t handle it.

“No, yeah,” he nods his head, feeling every bit like the little kid who’s just been told he can’t hang out in the yard with the cool, older kids on the block. “I should study anyway,” he mumbles, making his way to his feet in a way that is anything but graceful. “I’m actually supposed to make a definite plan with Genevieve so I’m gonna,” he says, shaking his head. Then he stops talking as he walks away.

Hidden away in the privacy of the bathroom, he leans against the sink and tells himself that he's making a far bigger deal out of this than he should. If running away because he's not invited somewhere with his new friends is how he's going to handle a stupid situation then it's no wonder they didn't ask him to go in the first place. Who wants a four-year-old crybaby tagging along anyway?

He's not even as upset about not going with them as he is about Jensen outright lying to him about it. He can tell himself a thousand times, in a thousand ways, that he likes all of the new people Jensen has introduced him to and that he feels like he's a part of the group. But, in the end, Jensen is the one that matters to Jared. He's the one that Jared looks for in the halls and waits for at lunch.

I thought you’d be better off at Genevieve’s.

He might as well just give it up now. Jensen may humor him and let him hang out sometimes but Jared's not on his level. At this rate, he never will be.





Jared's mom is waiting for him when he gets home from school and she doesn't look pleased. She's sitting at the kitchen table, reading a magazine and running her fingers through her hair.

“Hey, mom,” he greets, stopping in the doorway.

She looks up and pushes her magazine away, shaking her head with a humored smile. “Take the sunglasses off in the house, JT,” she chides. When he does, she nods toward the chair beside her. “Are you okay, son?” she asks when he sits.

He sucks in a deep breath and wishes he could slide his sunglasses back on. Over the last few days, he's gotten really used to hiding behind them when he doesn't want to be seen. Something tells him that his mom would see through that anyway. She's always had a sixth sense about things like that.

“I don't know,” he tells her honestly, dropping his head back to look at the ceiling like Jensen does when he's only half paying attention. “Just. There's a lot to get used to in a new school, ya know? New people and everything.”

She considers him for a minute and then asks, “And these new people? Jensen and Aldis and the others, they're good friends, you think?”

She knows Aldis' name because his dad had to come in and meet Jared's parents before he was allowed to go to the game with them on Monday. It was embarrassing, but Jensen came in with them and was as awesome with his mom and dad as he is with everyone else.

Of course, that was probably just for show. In fact, that's probably why Jensen thinks Jared can't hang with them now. He's just a momma's boy who can't handle the cool stuff.

With a grimace, he nods and smiles at his mother. She'll see right through it. but Jared can't tell her the truth this time. She'll never understand. “Yeah, they're good.” Standing, he wipes his hands on his jeans and hitches his bag over his shoulder. “Genevieve invited me over to study tonight. Is it okay with you if I go over there? For the Physics midterm?”

“Yeah, it's okay. Just make sure you're home by ten,” she reminds him as he jogs up the stairs.

There was a time when Jared was pretty close to his parents. Having few to no friends and spending all of his time at home kind of lent to that. Even when he came out to them in eighth grade, they were supportive and cool about it. He doesn't even know why it feels like they're suffocating him now, keeping him from growing up like every other kid his age is doing. He just knows that the longer he's here, the more he feels like he has to get away.





He tries, really fucking tries to have a good time at the study session but his heart's just not into Physics. By the time he announces that he's heading home around nine thirty, nobody seems that upset to see him go.

His mom and dad are waiting up for him when he gets home but they go to bed as soon as they're sure that he's on time and that he had fun. He's not tired and he can't stop thinking about what Jensen is doing right now. Not even a sandwich and two pieces of his mom's apple pie help cheer him up.

As he's on his way to his bedroom, feet dragging slowly over the polished wood in the hall, his phone vibrates against his thigh. Assuming that it's Genevieve texting to see what the hell was wrong with him tonight, Jared is surprised to see a message from Jensen instead.

Don't fall asleep yet.

It's frustrating, the way he's equally irritated and excited to get a stupid text message from Jensen. The guy has done nothing but string him along since the day they met. Unfortunately, knowing it in his head and feeling it are two totally different things.

It's late.

Jared doesn't even feel bad about his stupid, obvious response. His nerves are worn thin and he's just too exhausted to worry anymore.

Come to IHOP with me.

Frozen in his bedroom doorway, Jared considers the invitation. Jensen is supposed to be at Steve's house with his friends, doing things he doesn't think Jared can. The only way that Jared can maintain his ambivalence is if Jensen maintains his distance and a mid-week, midnight invitation for pancakes is hard to read as distance.

When he doesn't respond, Jensen sends another message.

Meet me outside. Now would be good.

Pushing the curtains aside, Jared sees Jensen standing across the street, kicking something on the sidewalk with the heel of his shoe. He stumbles a few times, shakes his head, and then tries it again.

Jared has never tried to sneak out but he's pretty sure that he can jump over his mom's flower bed without much trouble. It's just one time; he'll give Jensen a chance to explain what he's doing here and then he'll slide right back in and never use the window again.

He only has to tell himself three times before he actually goes through with it.

Part II

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raeschae

January 2013

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