Title: Drawing Constellations.
Movie Adapted: Love Actually
Genre: gen, het, slash, WBRPS.
Characters/Pairings: Jensen/Jared, Tom/Jamie, Mike/OFC, Sandy/OMC, Chris, Steve.
Word Count: approx 16,400.
Notes/Credit many thanks to finn21, amethystsmagic and asinful for being my audience, and encouraging me to continue when I was stuck. to liamar13 huge, huge thanks for the beta, and the support, I appreciate it more than a few words here could say! Last but never least, thanks to nutmeg4077, my favouritest pop tart for the soundtrack art and her general awesomeness.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended; fair use only. Not created for profit.
Summary: As Christmas approaches, lives collide and connect, love threading through and holding them together.
Tell me who admires and loves you, and I will tell you who you are.- Charles Augustin Saint-Beuve
Four weeks to Christmas
Every now and then, when the empty bed is too much and not enough, roles are reversed, and Jensen leans on Nate. Long past both their bed times Jensen crawls into bed with his son, pulling him against his chest. Nate murmurs, and rolls over, nestling into the crook of Jensen’s arm. If he were the nostalgic type he’d think about 9 years ago, about the baby small enough to fit his whole body there. Lying in bed with Charlie, watching their son breathe. Breathe and live.
“Dad?” Nate murmurs, a forced word, he’s half asleep.
Outside, the moon shines through and shadows them in blues and greys. Smog from the city casts a blanket over the stars, and Jensen can hear the distant rumble of traffic. “It’s late.”
“Nothing, don’t worry, go back to sleep.”
Nate grabs a handful of Jensen’s tee, curling it into a fist. He draws his legs up into the foetal position, calves against Jensen’s belly. They did this all those months ago, after Charlie died. Nate would crawl in with Jensen, on his mother’s side of the bed, and ask Jensen questions. What was mom’s favourite song? What was mom’s favourite candy? What songs did mom like to sing? All the things he knew, but wanted to hear from Jensen. Validation.
There’s a pause, the wind changes. “R’you going to get married again?”
It’s a ball out of left field and Jensen’s breath catches in his lungs, sticking with shock. He brings a shaky hand up to stroke golden hair, not sure if it’s Nate or himself that needs calming. “I … I haven’t thought about it, actually.”
“I think y’should.”
“Yeah. Y’can love mom and love someone else, right?”
Jensen’s voice wavers when he says, “Right,” and somehow manages to pull Nate closer.
“Then you should do it.”
“We’ll see. Go back to sleep.”
Jensen’s ring finger is still garnished with gold. There’s stale Oatmeal in the kitchen cabinet, and Lavender shampoo on the bathroom windowsill. Once in a while he calls Tom’s wife ‘Charlie’, even though she looks nothing like her, and Jensen wouldn’t wish for it anyway. He’s still trying to work out Jensen and Nate, Father and Son, he’s not sure if he could juggle another.
“If you don’t get a new wife, can we get a dog for Christmas?”
“Uh,” Jensen can’t help grinning. “I don’t know?”
“Uncle Jeff isn’t married, but he has Bisou and he’s happy. Maybe you just need a dog.”
Jensen chuckles. “Maybe. Come on now, sleep.”
When Nate’s breathing finally deepens, and an easiness settles over the room, Jensen says goodnight to the silence.
Sitting on the couch in his boxers, watching The Golden Girls, a bowl of Cheetos balanced on his stomach is Jared’s idea of moving on. Everybody keeps telling him to move on. Well, this is it right here. All he needs is a six pack and some Twizzlers and he’s the happiest man alive. He doesn’t need to talk, and he doesn’t need to get out of the house and he doesn’t, sure as hell and certain as fuck doesn’t need Zach. Jared’s lucky to be rid of him.
Sandy’s actually the only one he’ll answer the door for. She doesn’t give a fuck about his problems, his greasy hair or his smelly breath. She just says, “I’m in love,” with a grin so bright that Jared, who hasn’t been out in the sun for a while, has to shield his eyes.
Jared scoffs. It’s possible that there are a few dents in his whimsy these days. “Yeah? Well so’s Chad. With his secretary.”
“I’m sure his wife is happy for him. So, Jared!” Sandy throws her purse down, opens her arms and bounces. “I’m in love.”
Her happiness is kind of straining his self pity but the truth is Jared could kiss her. Although, they’d tried that already and it didn’t work out so well. Sandy had too many girl parts. “I saw you last Tuesday.”
“So you never mentioned it then.”
“I hadn’t met him then.”
Jared folds his arms, raises an eyebrow. “You’re telling me you met a guy and fell in love in, like, ten days?” Jared gasps, mocking. “Did you go to Vegas, Britney?”
Yeah, they tried that as well.
“So what’s his name?”
“José,” she replies, her eyes to the sky as she flumps full bodied onto his couch.
It feels like the whole room has just short circuited. This isn’t Sandy. Sandy doesn’t swoon, figuratively or literally. That’s totally Jared’s domain. Jared won’t just wear his heart on his sleeve, he’ll throw it around and hope somebody catches it. It’s been dropped and trod on more times than he can count, but he picks it up and dusts it off and relishes in that new-love feeling. Sandy usually takes a back seat and laughs.
“José? As in Cuervo? Are you drunk?”
Sandy ignores him. “He’s the most beautiful man you have ever seen, Jared. I just, I can’t even. He has this accent, and his voice like, lilts, and he rolls his R’s, and says Sandrrrrra, God. He calls me Sandra can you believe it?”
“I can’t, actually.”
“Oh, Jared, you have to help me!” Sandy sits up and sets her doe eyes on him. She is and will probably always be the most beautiful woman he’s ever known, inside and out, and she could be asking him to assassinate the President right now and he wouldn’t think twice. Besides, the President - David something or other - is a bit of a dweeb and likes to date girls twenty years younger than him. It’d probably be a public service.
“What are we talking? Kidnap? A full offensive.”
“Chaps and what?” He must have heard wrong.
“José has invited me to a picnic at McKinley and I don’t think I can go alone.”
“You just said you were in love with him!”
“Exactly! What if I like … spit up on myself? Hows that going to look?”
“Worse, much worse, if you take your ex boyfriend.”
“Please, you were never my boyfriend. I just helped you through that gawky, Oh no I really do like cock stage.”
Despite his better judgement, Jared grins. “Bitch.”
“Besides,” Sandy says with a wave of her hand, ignoring him, “this place smells like dead flesh. Like you killed Zach and hid him in the walls. You need to get out.”
“You’re going to take me on a date.”
“Don’t be stupid. I’m going to pretend I coincidentally met you there. Don’t worry, I’ve got it all figured out.” Sandy grins. “Now. Say Yes, Jared,”
Despite the shell of Sacramento; down in the depths of Chris Kane, at his core – his heart – is Texas. As sure as the sunrise, he remembers the swirl of heat pooling from the lonely roads, the smell of his mama’s kitchen on Sundays. He remembers his faith, and every lesson taught to him, the one he holds true: love your family without judgement, or agenda.
Steve is his family.
Steve is insane.
“You wanna do what?”
Steve’s perched on a stool at the bar, scribbling across a Benny’s napkin. “I want to revive a classic.”
“You want to do a cover,” Chris says with gritted teeth, polishing a glass with a little too much fervour.
“You want to do a cover of a jingle?”
Steve shakes his head solemnly, his sigh a painful sound. “A classic.”
“A classic jingle.”
Steve knows music. Actually, Steve lives, breathes, and mostly is, music. Chords and riffs and beats coursing through him where the water, blood and cells should be. There’s just the small problem with his selflessness; his constant need to bring happiness, bear witness to the glowing smiles of passers by. Californians. Christ.
“Our show is on Christmas Eve. It’s seasonal. Symbolic.”
“If I beat you over the head with my guitar, is that symbolic?”
“Actually, I think they call that little man’s syndrome.”
Chris throws a tea towel over his shoulder, so angrily he whips himself in the face with it. There’s loving your family without judgement, and then there’s Steve Carlson. Gypsy of the highest order, taking work wherever he can find it; a fish monger today and then a check-out chick tomorrow no doubt. If this music thing didn’t work out in the long run, no matter. He’d still have all the important stuff. Love. Chris groans. “This is the most important gig we’ve ever done, and you wanna sing some tralala, happy holidays, bless it be cow manure?”
“I was thinking Winter Wonderland.”
“With snowmen and bluebirds, my ass.”
“Fine, The Christmas Song.”
“You think I don’t know how these songs go? Jack Frost and tiny tots? I’d rather be shot.”
“John Lennon’s War is Over?”
“I will be shot.”
Steve slams a fist down onto the bar, and it’s not nearly as scary as Chris is sure he meant it to be. Chris is holding back his laughter as Steve’s mouth draws in a thin line. “You’ve got a week to make up your mind, Kane. If I’m singing Crazy in Love then you’re singing a Christmas song.”
As Steve saunters off, Chris calls out “Hey!” indignantly, earning him a giggle from some girl off to his left. Chris looks over, can’t control his brow flying up toward the ceiling. She’s wearing red, top cut down to there, her legs crossed off to the side so that the other patrons can appreciate them. She’s a little sex kitten, no doubt about it, but she’s also way too young for him. When he sidles over with a grin not fit for church, and she orders a ‘scotch on the rocks’ with a furious blush, he gathers she’s too young for a lot of things.
“You got any ID, sweetheart?”
“She’s with me.” Some upstart with bad hair slaps his ID onto the bar and presses his hand to the small of the girl’s back. Chris is ready to protest, but he sees the way she curls into the touch, recrossing her legs, relishing it. Chris picks up the card and does the appropriate checks, handing it back with a plasticine smile. Overhead lights catch the twinkle of a wedding ring, and Chris knows – the whole place knows – it’s tinsel on the tree. Decoration. Those promises weren’t made between these two.
“What can I get you?”
“I’ll have a bourbon and water and … Liz?”
“On the rocks, right,” Chris means for his sarcasm to shine through. “But I’m gonna need to see some ID.”
“Look, Moe. If you won’t take my friends order, we’ll take our money somewhere else.”
“You seem like A-class patronage, sir, but I’m willing to take the risk.”
Mr. I’m-at-the-top-of-the-food-chain moves round so that the girl’s no longer between them, lowers his voice. His words are loaded threats and Chris isn’t in the mood. Steve’s upset leaves a steady beat in his head, clouding his thoughts. “Are we going to have a problem here?”
“Not at all. Why don’t you take the little lady to the café down the street? I hear their banana splits are mighty fine. Cherry on top and everythin’”
When the guy leaps over the bar, rage boiling to his extremities, his fists, Chris wonders if maybe he’s fuelled by more than his dick.
three weeks to Christmas
After Nate’s first birthday, and not long after he’d started walking, Jensen took his son for their first visit to the park. Jensen had bought him a small, novelty soccer ball and thought it was time they started using it properly, rather than Nate just sucking on it with sore pink gums. Every second weekend after, until present day, they had done the same thing. Only now they had a bigger soccer ball and Nate could actually walk three steps without falling over.
It had never been about the sport, which worked out well for them, because Jensen couldn’t play and the apple really hadn’t fallen far from the tree.
“Sorry!” Nate calls to some far away picnickers, one of which had copped a muddy ball to the head. They wave and kick it back, the third time in half an hour that it has gone rogue. Nate meets the ball half way, turning round and heading straight for Jensen. Taking small skipping steps while shaking his head, trying to flick the hair out of his eyes. Jensen had asked him to consider a haircut, but Nate wouldn’t hear of it. Apparently Jensen was uncool and out of touch.
“It’s nil all with twenty seconds left on the clock,” Jensen narrates inexpertly, hunched down with his arms low at his sides, moving from side to side. Nate has his tongue stuck out as he juggles the ball with his feet, eyes down with no regard for Jensen at all. “Little Ackles has the ball at the half way line, out on the flank with nobody to pass to. Will he go for the impossible goal, and try to single-handedly win the game for the entire team? Or will Big Ackles steal away his glory?”
“You’re-so-lame-dad,” Nate said, a little out of breath, before giving his leg an almighty swing and sending the ball off in some other haphazard direction. Jensen lunges at him and they fall to the ground, Jensen on his back with Nate caught up in his arms, tickling at his ribs.
“Red card! Red card!” Nate’s yelling, in-between bouts of laughter, his face flushed and his legs flailing in the air.
“Take it back! Take it all back!”
“Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame!” Nate manages to wriggle away, his eyes sparkling and his grin the size of Texas. Jensen’s just smiling back and soaking it in, seeing Charlie everywhere. Even when … even before, she never used to come here. She used to give him a long, dramatic speech about the importance of a father in his son’s life, but he knew, was completely sure she did it just so she could put her feet up and eat all the chocolate chip cookies.
“Hey, guys, don’t mean to intrude.” Jensen’s still sprawled on the ground, and Nate’s fruitlessly brushing grass clippings off his filthy clothes. They look over, in sync, to see a young man headed towards them with one hand wrapped around the soccer ball. Jensen doesn’t move until the man is right there, a skyscraper blocking the sunlight. “I think this is yours,” he says with a grin, handing it over to Nate.
There’s a moment, after Jensen rises and before a word is spoken, when Jensen can feel a heat crackling through to his bones. They size each other up, like time has stopped, and all the lines, planes and angles seem to equal more than the sum of their parts. This man, this boy even, he smiles with white teeth and deep set dimples and an honesty, a happiness that’s been missing. Jensen’s spent the last 12 years of his life learning realities, how the body is and why; and still he can’t explain the glow, from the young man’s toes to the top of his unkempt hair. It’s instantly infectious, and Jensen smiles back.
“Thanks, dude,” Nate says, as the stranger hands the ball back. What with the ‘dude’s and the ‘y’all’s sprinkled through every conversation, Jensen thinks his son’s been spending way too much time with Chris and Steve. He’s nine now, and impressionable, smart, but still finding his niche, moulding himself around other people. Jensen worries.
“I’m Jared,” he says, a hand outstretched for Jensen to take. When they touch there’s no sparks, no fireworks. It’s solid and real. It pains Jensen to admit but there’s warmth there, between them, like maybe they’ve met before now. It’s silly. He’s 29 and men were a passing fancy he’d left behind long ago; like weed, piercings and Duran Duran.
“Jensen,” he replies, and let’s go of Jared’s hand too quickly, stepping back. With an arm around Nate, and a noogie on his son’s head, Jensen adds, “This here is Nate.”
“Nate, good to meet ya buddy.” There’s a honey-slow drawl in his words and Jensen wonders where he’s from, where he’s been. Jared puts a fist out and, and in some universal boy-code for which Jensen missed the tutorial, Nate hits it with his small, ineffectual one. He’s standing as tall as his body will allow and grinning up at Jared like he’s Superman. Just like that, Jared’s in.
“Do you play soccer?”
Jared pulls a face. “Actually, I’m really bad.”
“Get in line,” Jensen quips. “I think all the talent packed up and went to Europe.”
“I’m still here!” Nate protests, and Jared’s grin is big when he turns it on Jensen as if it say, get yourself out of that one.
“Right, bud. I meant those of us over the age of 20.”
“Well, do you want to stay and play with us? Dad can stand goalie and you and me can play teams.” Nate puts a hand on his hip matter-of-fact-ly. “I can teach you I guess. You just gotta make sure you don’t touch the ball or somebody else with your hands because then they get a foul and probably-”
“OK, Nate, settle down,” Jensen says, hugging Nate into him. “If Jared’s here with friends he probably wants to get back to them.”
“Oh.” Nate looks up at Jared with that look. Jensen knows that look well. That one look has helped Nate wheedle his way into more things than Jensen is willing to admit. Mostly involving a lot of preservatives and sleepless nights. Jared crouches, despite the long journey down, and looks Nate right in the eye. He’s not too close, or too far away, and he looks up at Jensen with every second word. He’s masterful.
“Tell you what. If it’s okay with your Dad, and if you promise not to laugh at my terrible playing, I reckon I can stay for a little while.”
Nate grins, all teeth, and looks up at Jensen. Back when he was just a bump in Charlie’s belly, an idea, a hope, Jensen was reading parenting books titled ‘How Being the Best is Breeding the Best’. Total bullshit, he concedes, and never once did they say ‘let your son walk all over you like a welcome mat’. Jensen’s sure that he’s failed this parenting thing, according to ‘Changing the Future, One Baby at a Time’, so what’s one more thing going to hurt?
“If you want to stay, by all means.”
Nate rejoices by kicking the ball off into the distance, and Jared returns to his feet with a smile that might mean a lot of things.
“Yeah, I’d like that.”
Sacramento’s Supermen was, in a way, Tom’s first born child. Something Jamie doesn’t appreciate hearing, especially at 5 months pregnant with swollen ankles and a constant craving for sardines on anything and everything. Of course, for Tom getting Jamie pregnant was an easier task than getting his small business off the ground, but he had put his heart and soul into it and it had grown beyond his imaginings. From a fifteen year old kid with a spanner, no idea what the fuck he was doing, to an office and a nice suit and people who called him ‘sir’. It was gratifying.
Tom liked to remind people about it. A lot. Jamie pretend snored in his face. “I’ll give you gratifying,” was her response, as she pushed him up against the kitchen counter. These days, not only did she eat weird shit, she was also really horny 80% of the time. Which was good, sure, really good. But only a few months ago she had been telling Tom to, and this was a direct quote, ‘get the fuck away’ from her because she was ‘sick and sore and tired’. Now she was reading up on when to have sex and where to have it and best positions to have it in.
Jamie kisses him with the same fervour she had when they were 16. Every shade is familiar, from the way she lapped a tongue out tentatively at first, before pressing in for more and all of it. In a way, Tom could still smell the cheap perfume she used to buy with the little pay that she received. He could still see that cut off denim skirt, with frayed edges, bean pole legs up and up and out of sight. More than ten years on and he’s not tired of it, scoffs at the thought that he might be one day. When her small, soft hands find there way under his shirt, scraping at the muscles of his abdomen, his belly flip flops and his dick starts making demands.
“Bedroom?” he suggests, barely peeling their lips apart.
“Yeah, yeah,” Jamie breathes and steps away, her hand looped in his, prepared to lead him there. He can’t handle the distance and pulls her back gently to kiss her again.
Not once, never, during the last six months, has she ever been anything but beautiful to him. He never stopped wanting her, or wanting to touch her, even when Mike winced and said, ‘Tommy, the baby’s like, alive in there, you know?’ Jamie just laughed when he asked her if it was weird, that he was more into her, pregnant, than ever. For him, it was simple. She was his girl, his wife, the mother of his child – he just wanted to be inside her, a part of her, for them all to be together.
He can’t bring himself to ask Jensen; to see if he’d felt the same way.
With a crash, the front door opens and shuts, and Mike’s voice storms through, dousing the mood effectively. Tom keeps Jamie close to him, hoping it’s just a bad dream. Any second now he’ll wake up naked and in bed with his wife; but no dice. Mike calls out again, and Jamie groans, resting her head on his shoulder.
“We’re in here,” Tom says, not too loudly. Jensen had to stay late at the clinic, tidy up his paperwork, so they’re babysitting. Nate’s asleep in the guest room.
When Mike rounds the corner he comes to a skidding halt and grins. It’s not a normal grin. Not an ‘I’ve got another job’ grin and Tom would know because Tom has seen that grin a good thirty or forty times. Either Mike doesn’t realise he’s barged in on something, or he doesn’t care. He just strides in and cries, “I’m going to Australia!” with his arms up in the air. If they were at a soccer stadium, Tom would think he was trying to start up the Mexican wave.
Jamie turns around, and they’re both staring at him with their heads tilted, like he’s an optical illusion. You know, one of those patterns that have pictures, and truths hidden in them. Tom thinks Mike just doesn’t make sense, any way you look at him.
“Australia?” Tom asks, slowly.
“Yeah. Down Under, mate!”
“Why are you going to Australia?”
Mikes rolls his eyes as if this is the stupidest question he’s ever heard. “To look for Tasmanian Tigers.”
Jamie tries to keep her laughter locked away, hiding her grin behind a fist. She says, “That’s great, Michael,” in a tight voice before turning to busy herself at the sink. There’s nothing to do but rewash, so she does, while Tom moves closer to his friend.
“Australia?” Tom repeats.
“No, Guatemala. Yes, Australia, you ingrate.”
“Okay. When did you decide this?”
“While I was out delivering sandwiches,” Mike says in a bored voice, as if he really doesn’t want to tell the story. Mike’s never gone in for explanations. If he wants to jump off a building into a vat of ice cream, he doesn’t think there needs to be a question why. He just wants to, that’s all. It was half the reason why he couldn’t keep a job down longer than a week, and why his jobs entailed weird shit like grave digging and dressing up as a clown for kid’s parties.
“Is there any particular reason why a ham and salad on rye would make you think of Australia?”
“Not the sandwiches, stupid, the woman!”
Tom hears Jamie let out a snort of laughter, and tries to keep his mouth in a thin line. Mike’s still just looking at him with a toothy grin, caught up in some whirlwind where stark doubt and disbelief can’t touch him. He’s moving about on the balls of his feet, crossing his arms then uncrossing, putting them on his hips. “You met a woman?”
“Not just a woman, Tommy, a goddess. The most amazing, wonder of a woman you have ever known, or seen. An Amazon. Patrick Swayze coined the phrase man, but I’m stealing it,” Mikey puts his hand up in the air, a far away look in his eyes. “She’s like the wind.”
It takes Tom a good minute to think of anything to say to that. When he does, all he can manage is, “You’re kidding.”
“Does it look like I’m kidding?” Mike grabs Tom by the shoulders, with two firm and urgent hands. “I’m in love, Tommy. All the way, don’t look back, mind your head love. Love!”
“Alright, alright!” Tom flounders, Mike shaking him hard enough to dislodge his brain, if he hasn’t done that already. “Calm down.”
“Calm down? Christ, I can’t calm down! I’m in love, I’m in love with a woman called Ezra dude. Ezra. Doesn’t that just sound exotic? Don’t you just want to make love to a woman named Ezra?”
“Yeah, Tom, don’t you?” Jamie pipes up from behind him.
“Well fuck, I do. I want to follow her to Australia and comb the outback and find Tasmanian tigers and have sex in a tree with Ezra.”
“All the Tasmanian Tigers are dead,” says a lazy voice behind Mike, and Tom looks to see Nate standing there in his ruffled pyjamas, rubbing his eyes dramatically. Mike laughs, almost villainous, before turning and running up to Nate, throwing him over his shoulder.
“I’m in love, boy! I’m in love!”
“I heard you!” Nate groans, flailing his legs about. Mike starts spinning him around, and Nate’s squawking, trying to pretend he’s not having fun. Jamie steps up to him to watch the spectacle, and he wraps an arm around her. They never say it out loud, but they both think it, Tom knows. Seeing Nate, it’s scary. Soon they’re going to have a baby and soon after that he, or she as Jamie so often reminds him, will be Nate’s age, and then gone. To Australia, or anywhere.
When Mike spins a little too vigorously, and Nate’s head barely misses the doorway, Jamie speaks up. “Put him down, Mike!”
“Okay, okay,” Mike huffs. When Nate’s back on the ground he’s all grin, shouldering Mike, trying to be the tough guy. Though Mike claims he’s never making babies, kids love him. More to the point, they love having an adult around that lets them do stupid things like eat Playdough. “I’m still in love, though.”
“Right,” Tom sighs. “With a woman who wants to go looking for animals that don’t exist?”
“Yeah, didn’t I mention that? She’s a crypto-zoologist.”
Tom scrunches up his nose. “Pyramids?”
“It means she looks for animals that aren’t real,” Nate tells them with ease.
“How do you know that?”
“We did it at school last year, with Miss. Kline.”
“The really hot one?” Mike asks, and Tom hears Jamie gasp.
“Yeah, I loved her,” Nate says matter-of-factly. Mike laughs, and gives him a high five. “Dad said she was too old, though, and by the time I was big enough to love her she’d probably be married to another dude.”
“Your dad was right,” Jamie said, stepping over to him. “And if he were here now I bet he’d say it’s time for you to go back to bed.”
“Yeah. He’s lame.” Nate says, and takes Jamie’s hand. She smiles over her shoulder at Tom, walking out the room while Nate says, “We were at the park the other day and there was this cool dude there, and-”
“Tommy,” Mike says loudly, stepping over and slapping a flat hand to Tom’s chest. There’s happiness etched in every curve of Mike’s grin, and his eyes are literally sparkling. He throws an arm around Tom’s shoulder and leads them toward the fridge. “I think this calls for a beer. Well, two beers.”
“You’re really going to Australia?”
“What happens if you stop loving her?”
“What happens when the moon and stars fall from the sky, Tommy?” Mike says in a straight and solemn voice. “What happens then?”
From Jared’s point of view, being friends with Chad Murray is kind of like switching from full cream to soy milk. It’s pretty nasty at first, but if you stick with it you learn to like it well enough. When your friends with Chad, you’ve got to take everything as it comes. Expect the unexpected, be prepared to fight 300 pound boofhead whose sisters, mothers or girlfriends have been insulted by Chad’s dry wit. Because it will happen from time to time and hey, at least Jared’s life is never dull. Sandy reckons that’s a lame reason to still be friends with someone you knew before your voice broke, but Jared’s sticking with it. He’s not a quitter.
“Who beat you up?” Jared asks when Chad comes knocking on his door. There’s a deep purple ring around his right eye and his bottom lip is puffy and split.
“Fuckin’ public servant with a superiority complex.”
Jared throws a smirk over his shoulder, locking up his house. They’re off to a Christmas party Jared’s work is throwing, party hats, tinsel, the whole shebang. After a week off work for ‘mourning’, Jared figures it’s only fair to make an appearance. Besides, Sandy had been right about his house. It smells like the supposed dead flesh is starting to rot. Better to go out then get cleaning. “Run that by me again?”
Chad waves a hand dismissively, presses a control so that his SUV beeps and opens. “Nothin’, who cares? You should see the other guy.” Jared laughs, knowing exactly what that means, and laughs again when Chad just flips him the bird.
“What’re you so happy about? Aren’t you supposed to be wallowing or some shit?”
“That Zach fucker pounding your heart into mince meat,” Chad says, keys in the ignition while Jared buckles up. “Wasn’t it you who was drunk and singing about Jared-pie and being eaten for breakfast? That was you, right?”
“I can’t remember,” Jared says, and he’s grinning, he can’t help it. Chad crows and turns in his seat, backhanding Jared on the shoulder.
“You dog. You got laid.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did. I’d recognise that twinkle anywhere.”
“You sure it’s not the reflection of your own twinkle? I assume you’re still sleeping with the secretary?”
“Dude.” Chad shakes his head curtly, and starts reversing out of the driveway. “Don’t make it sound so dirty.”
“Well, what would you call it?”
“I don’t call it anything,” Chad says with a shrug, pulling out onto the road. “It is what it is.”
“It’s more than that, man. She … she’s exciting. She says stuff, does stuff without thinking. Like there’s no fear, or, or doubt. She’s so self aware man, and she’s so. She’s good with herself. She likes herself.”
“I love Kenzie.”
“Generally, when you love someone, you don’t cheat on them.”
“Yeah, thanks Dr. Feelgood. I’ll keep that in mind.” Chad moves smoothly into gear, glancing at Jared. “You know, I see what you did there. Dodge-alecki.”
“Don’t put those coy, puppy eyes on me. You threw a leg over.”
“No, I didn’t.”
Chad changes lanes, rolling his eyes. Jared has long come to realise that driving with Chad isn’t really fool proof. That time they went to Australia and managed to run over the only kangaroo for a hundred miles? That tipped him off. “Fine, he threw a leg over. I told you, didn’t I? I said stop your goddamn moping or you’ll never, ever get fucked up the ass again. Nobody will want to fuck you if you cry all the time.”
Jared’s chuckling. It feels like his chest has bubbled with bliss and Chad’s not going to burst it. “Shut up.”
“Dude, something happened. Tell me.”
“Fine, fine!” Jared’s not sure he can put it into words right now. If he does, and it sounds just as good as it feels, he’s not sure he can handle it if Jensen doesn’t feel the same way. “I … met a guy. Happy?”
“Fucking ecstatic. What’s he like? What’s his name? He got money?”
“He’s nice, and I’m not telling you, and I don’t know.”
Chad snorts, as if this is the most ridiculous thing he’s ever heard. “You don’t know if he’s got money?”
“It didn’t come up in conversation, actually.”
“Well where did you meet him, at a club? Was he drinking, did he buy you one?”
“I met him at the park.”
“Oh, right. He’s one of those gay-gay guys. Goes to the gym and keeps heaps fit so he doesn’t get AIDS or some shit.”
That’s Chad, right there. Telling one-way-ticket-to-hell jokes that Jared can’t help but laugh at. “You are so fucking crude.”
“So, yes then?”
“No! He was just there with his son, playing-”
“Whoah, whoah, whoah,” the car swerves to the right as Chad takes a hand off the wheel. It’s out flat and in his face, as if inviting Jared to talk to it. “You met somebodies daddy?”
“He has a son, yeah.”
“Doesn’t that involve fucking women?”
“Well, yeah …”
“So is he married, divorced, is the kid a test tube or something? What the fuck?”
“I don’t know, okay? We just, played soccer and had fun and at the end of the day I gave him my number. Alright?”
“No, not alright! Dude, what the fuck are you thinking? You don’t need that baggage at the best of times, let alone when you’re on rebound.”
“Fuck off. I listen to you tell me how amazing some chick you’re fucking – behind your wife’s back – is. Even when I’m dealing with being cheated on myself.”
Chad gasps. “That’s so not-”
“You don’t get some moral high ground here. I had a nice afternoon, and I hope he calls, and if he doesn’t I’ll be okay.”
“You know, we had this guy at our work once, and he was there for like, a week. Dumb as a fucking post, spouting sonnets and singing shit like My Heart Will Go On. Where is that guy now? Probably jobless and bald with nothing worth loving.”
“Dude, did you have a point when you started that ramble?”
Chad sighs. “You’ve just split up with a guy who fucked you over so bad you cried. In front of me. Now you’re ready to just jump back into the saddle, throwing rose petals and drawing hearts around some guy’s name. You should back up, step off and get down to important things. Don’t look for stuff that’s not there, don’t force something that’ll just hurt you again.”
Jared can’t help it, he smiles. “Chad, is that concern in your voice? Are you worried about me?”
“You are,” Jared coos, rubbing a hand on Chad’s neck as Chad tries to swat it away. “You want to protect me from the big bad world, you love me, you really love me.”
“I love you too, Chaddy.”
Chad mutters mutinously for the rest of the way, something about boarding schools and corporal punishment.