Title: Yesterday Was the Day That I Was Born
Pairing: Jared/Jensen, Jared/Sandy
Words: ~36,000 overall (5,720 this chapter)
Summary: Being informed by your friends and loved ones that you're congenial to the point of boredom and occasionally nausea is sort of a drag. Which is why Jared Padalecki resolves to have an irresponsibly awesome time on his twenty-first birthday. But when his foray into excitement proves to be the iceberg of his Titanic of a life, he's left wondering who and what exactly he'll wake up to once he gets his head back above the suddenly murky waves of his own existence......or something.
Warnings/Disclaimer: AU. Hooker fic. A scene of non-con. A scene of Het. Schmoop. Humor. Everybody owns themselves.
A/N: Beta'ed by the most awesome antarshakes.
Back to Part Four
Sitting in his mother’s kitchen, nibbling on fresh-baked (well, Pilsbury) cookies, Jared listens attentively as she relates the goings on of her school. It sounds like that show Boston Public. The principal is apparently a twice divorced, notorious womanizer she has a sneaking suspicion may have been coming on to her at the last faculty meeting.
Two kids on the football team ironically somehow came to blows during a test over a girl in the drama club the other day and there’s a Sophomore with a bizarrely complete knowledge of the Civil War and Southern Reconstruction who she suspects has home issues and possible stimulant use for how he tends to fidget during class and blow up at other students during debates.
“He’s already been to see the school psychologist for ADD testing and counseling, and I’d hate for them to pull him because of his anger issues. He is so bright but—something no one has gotten to the bottom of is going on with him.”
Jared takes a big swig of his milk and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “Yikes. Whatever happened to being a kid?”
“I think the internet killed it,” she muses.
Jared munches his cookie in contemplative silence. There was no doubt that teaching was what he wanted to do, but sometimes the way kids had to grow up, too fast and too desensitized, made him question his resolve. To see it day in and day out. Kids convinced what’s going on at that moment is the end all, be all of their lives. That it’ll only get worse.
Some of it would be shielded from him teaching elementary school kids but from what his classmates who were also working toward teaching that age group had mentioned of their student teaching experiences—you don’t see a lot of things coming.
How do you explain to a seven year old that repeats what they hear at home and on television, what’s wrong with going around calling people fags? He swallows the bite of cookie and pushes his plate away.
“Not hungry? Sure you’re feeling okay?”
“Things are kind of weird right now,” he puts mildly.
“With everything. I had a little too much fun on my birthday and Sandy broke up with me. She was going to do it anyway but then everything sort of went crazy. Sandy hates me. Chad hates me and loves Sandy. Chad’s ex-girlfriend hates—everyone.”
“I’m sorry, baby.”
“It’s okay. Mike and Tom let me crash for a little while. And Jensen—“
“My new friend. He’s—different. And with everything—it’s like I don’t know if I know who I am anymore.”
She takes his face between her hands. “You’re my pride and joy. You are a sweet, kind, loving boy and you’re not always going to be the same but what’s deep down—that’ll always be there. Sometimes figuring out who you are means letting some things, some people go. It might hurt but it’s for the best.”
He gathers her up in his arms and just rests his face against her neck for a moment. Such a small woman for the giant boulder of strength she’s been for him his entire life. “Thanks, Mom.”
“Anytime, J.T.” she hugs him back. The doorbell chimes and he pries himself away, unaccustomed to showing her how much he needs her. She’d done so much for him, he never wanted to give her any more to worry about.
She gives him a reassuring smile as he strides to the door and swings it open. And there that choked, sucker-punched sensation is again.
Jensen has a few bags at his feet, smile wavering slightly at Jared’s gape. “My—stuff kinda finished early. Hope the invitation’s still good?”
His mom steps up beside him, beaming. “Who might this handsome boy be?”
“Um, it’s him. Jensen.” Three hours away from home. To see him.
Her eyes light up and she tugs him inside. “Jared told me you couldn’t make it! Oh, I’m so happy to meet you, he’s just gone on about you like a rockstar.”
“Mom!” he hisses. Jensen is clearly eating it up. Making Jared squirm is one of his favorite past times, of course.
“Sit down, have cookies.” She parks Jensen in Jared’s vacated chair.
“Thanks, Ms. Padalecki but I eat too much junk as it is.” If he could look at himself in a mirror, Jared is sure he would’ve seen his eyes bulge comically at that statement.
“Call me Sherri! Now Jensen,” her voice takes on a somber tone. “Price of boarding in the Padalecki house is a song.”
“Mom, would you—“
“I don’t charge Jared because the poor thing can’t carry a tune in a bucket.” She stage whispers to Jensen, who levels him with a twinkling gaze. The two of them obviously have at least one thing in common—a love of tormenting him.
“I’d be happy to. Any requests?” His charming smile is a mile wide and Jared hopes neither of them calls him on his copious blushing.
“Artist’s choice,” she insists, yanking Jared down into the seat next to her and leaning forward, rapt with attention. Jensen looks him dead in the eye as he clears his throat and begins to sing and it’s crystal clear.
This one’s for Jared.
“Shadows grow so long, before my eyes. And they’re moving, across the page—“ It’s Frampton. Sung in a husky timbre Jensen’s speaking voice didn’t tend to descend to and one that seriously blows Frampton out of the fucking water.
“ Suddenly the day turns into night. Far away—from the city. But don’t—hesitate. ‘Cause your love won’t wait, hey, hey. Ooh, baby I love your way. Everyday. Want to tell you I love your way. Every day. Want to be with you night and day,” something flickers behind Jensen’s eyes and Jared is struck dumb by the fact that blood is slowly pooling in his groin.
“That’s enough singing!” he bursts out, startling his mother, who smacks his arm. “Jared,” she chastises. “Oh, Jensen, that was wonderful! I loved that song when I was a teenager,” she swoons. “What did you think, J.T.?”
“I’m going to take Jensen’s bags upstairs.” Her forehead wrinkles in confusion at his abrupt topic shift but he’s already bounding up the stairs and tossing them onto his bed. Skulking down the hall and closing the bathroom door as quietly as possible.
He undoes his jeans and braces himself against the wall with one arm. Pulling on his fully hardened dick and biting down on his lip at how good it feels.
An undignified yelp escapes him as someone barges in the door he neglected to lock (he’s new at this), and he drops his hand from his dick like a hot potato. It’s Jensen, of course, smug and fully aware of the effect that sultry tone of voice was having on him.
He gets to his knees and swallows Jared, causing a helpless, hoarse whine at the aggressiveness and sheer fucking want coursing through them both. For the second time, he’s embarrassed at how quickly he falls apart inside Jensen’s mouth, few minutes with him putting him on edge like he’s been there for hours.
Bobbing up and down, jaw loose and practiced, Jensen glances up at him and smiles as best he can. It causes a trickle of saliva to run from his cock-stuffed mouth and down his chin and that’s Jared’s cue to leave the building. His knees want to give way, his nails skitter on the wall and Jensen holds him steady, throat working to suck in his release, not allowing a single drop to get away from him.
He relinquishes his grip on Jared and he bonelessly falls back into the wall, hardly grimacing at the towel rack digging into the space between his shoulders. Jensen rises and wipes his chin and Jared can only stare at him like he’s unreal.
“Got any gum?”
“After the ninja turtle phase, he went back to wanting to be a policeman. He had a toy badge he used to brandish on the playground when one of the kids were getting picked on. Especially the little girls. Officer Padalecki had very little tolerance for anyone that bullied girls.”
Jensen laughs along with her and Jared has sat through enough stories over the course of the meal to let it roll off his back and join in the fun. “I was kicked off the force after I was implicated in a cootie scandal.”
“These pork chops are great, Sherri.” Jensen praises before popping in another bite.
“You’re sweet but I know they suck. I never was much in the kitchen outside of following box instructions. Sandy, that girl was a cook. Made meatloaf for us last year. Shame about what happened but I’m sure she’ll be okay. And after all, Jared wouldn’t have met you if things were different.”
They both freeze in place, eyes glued to his mother, who goes back to her food, seemingly oblivious. Their eyes meet and they both quickly look elsewhere.
“You two work at the café together?”
“Yeah,” Jensen answers evenly. “It’s not my usual thing but Jared went out on a limb to get it for me. I appreciate it.”
Sherri smiles at him and then at Jared. “No big deal. You helped me out and I wanted to return the favor.” Jared attempts to downplay it.
“True bromance,” she says sagely and Jared groans. Thankfully, the phone rings and stops her from elaborating. She pushes back from the table. “You boys are on vacation, I’ve got it.”
“What made you come up?” Jared asks him once his mother leaves. “I felt like a giant idiot for even asking you.”
“Life’s too short and too boring to not take a chance every now and then, don’t you think?” Increasingly so, the answer to that question is yes. At least where Jensen is concerned. He sinks down further into his chair, so his long leg can brush up against Jensen’s beneath the table. Jared withdraws nervously after a few seconds, but the sly grin it earns him says it was more than enough.
Sherri re-enters the dining room and the sober set of her face causes his own to fall. “Is everything okay?”
“Jensen, do you mind if I speak to Jared for a moment?” Jensen takes one look at her and hurriedly rises. “Sure, I’ll just be upstairs if you need me.” He takes them two at a time until he disappears from view. Jared turns to her, fear rising. “Mom, what is it?”
“That was your Uncle Curtis.”
Uncle Curtis. On his father’s side. He hadn’t heard that name since the last time his father tried to see them when he was fourteen.
“What did he want?” he asks coolly. Unless it’s to inform them his father was found dead in a gutter somewhere, he’s not interested.
“Gerry—your father. He’s in town. He wants to see us,” she speaks as if she hasn’t quite processed the information.
“No.” Jared states simply.
“Jared, maybe it would help—“
“No. If he steps one foot in this house or anywhere near you, I swear to God. I will kill him.” Funny how it’s father he has to draw on to become this. But he will never lay a finger on his mother. Not ever again.
She’s left speechless but he’s said all he needs to. Blood boiling, he bounds up the stairs and stalks into his room, Jensen standing in the middle of it. “I can leave if you want—“
Jared pounds his fist into the wall, denting the plaster. Grabs his lamp and hurls it as well, pieces flying everywhere. Anything he can get his hands on goes crashing into the wall, splintering apart like he wants to at the thought of seeing his father after all these years, what he did.
He flinches violently when Jensen reaches out a hand to touch his back and knead at it softly. Tears of too much are welling up in his eyes and he clutches at him, hiding his face away. He can’t recall any longer the last time he let himself cry. Or genuinely yell or scream. So much locked up but this time, he can’t keep it in.
He sobs against Jensen’s cheek as he shushes him. Rubbing at his neck with one hand and his back with the other until he quiets and lets himself be put to bed.
It’s night when Jared wakes up, tangled in his covers. His alarm clock reads 3:23. By now his chest is hollow, whole body drained and empty. Explains why he slipped under so early in the evening.
A small snuffle alerts him to Jensen’s presence on the floor next to the bed. Leaning over, he squints at him, finding open eyes peering back. Jared stretches his arm until he finds Jensen’s hand. Laces their fingers together for as long as Jensen will allow it.
“Thanks,” he says meekly.
“You would’ve done the same for me, remember?”
“In the diner, when we met?”
“Oh yeah,” he chuckles lightly.
“Typical guy. Forgetting the important stuff,” he laments jokingly. Jared runs his thumb over Jensen’s knuckles. “Why are you on the floor?”
“Wouldn’t want you to think I was taking advantage of you in your weakened condition, as is my way.”
He lifts the covers up in invitation, “Get in here. That can’t be good for your back.”
“My back is tough. Spend a lot of time on it.”
“Stop ruining the moment and climb in already.”
“He who mentions the moment is the one who ruins it, by the way.” Jared gives him his space but Jensen scoots until they’re pressed up against each other, drapes a hand over Jared’s hip. Feels weird being the little spoon, but not entirely unpleasant. Pretty far from it, actually.
“I’m glad you came,” Jared whispers into the bedspread.
“I know. Could still taste your jizz through the pork chops.”
With a scoff, Jared lets himself settle back against him and finds himself dropping off after a few minutes of studying the wall.
But not Jensen.
Expression troubled as he listens to the odd creaks and groans of the house. Periodic noises from outside. Lets it lull his busy mind to a restless sleep after an hour or so.
Sherri peeks in on them a couple of hours later, wrapped around one another in the sheets. She pulls the door closed with a small smile.
Jensen spends the next couple of days with them. Does the grocery shopping to earn his keep and helps his Mom make banana nut muffins that turn out misshapen but delicious and fluffy nonetheless. Jared isn’t sad to see him go so soon, mostly because he’s still shocked he showed up at all.
Or didn’t bail when Jared lost it in front of him. Was just his regular, mocking, blatantly sexual (or not so blatant when his Mom was around) self and didn’t mention it and Jared couldn’t have asked for anything else.
She pulls Jensen into a hug. “Come back and see me in the summer. We have much more food to ruin together, you and I.”
“I will,” he squeezes back and may not mean it, but it sends a tiny thrill through Jared.
“I’ll wait for you in the car.” He slings his bags over his shoulder and gives his Mom a small wave in goodbye.
“Feel better?” Assuming she’s referring to the business with his Dad, and not the rest of the mania he came here to get away from. Although, some did follow him in a good but no less perplexing way.
“Slept it off. Jensen helped.” Far from the whole story and he gets the feeling she is well aware. She gives him a blessedly simple, but tight, smile.
“I spoke to Curtis. Told him to tell Gerry once again that we’re not interested.”
Mustering as much control as he can, “I meant what I said but—it’s not up to me to make up your mind for you. I know that.”
“Jared, if your father ever comes back into this house, it should be because we both think it’s the right thing. You’re not a little boy and I trust your judgment.” All of it for Jared’s benefit when her words that night spoke volumes about her willingness to try.
He takes a big leap. “You told me that I didn’t have to protect you all the time. Well, maybe the same thing goes for you. If you want to see him it’s—I can’t say it’s okay but I respect it.”
The pride shining in her eyes makes him self-conscious despite the sympathetic bloom in his chest. “Can you stop looking at me like that now?”
“Never,” she plants a firm kiss on his cheek.
He jerks his thumb toward the door. “Once I take Jensen home I’ll be right back.”
She waves him off. “It’s okay if you don’t want to make the trip twice in one day. Or if you want to spend the night.”
The joy of awkward ambiguity. “Uh—“
“Oh, Jared, I figured out what you were doing in the bathroom when you were twelve. I think I get how it works with another person too.”
An honest to goodness squeak bubbles up from his throat. “It’s not—“
“Figures we’d have the same type. He looks like James Dean! Go keep him warm, sweetie. That one’s sticking around.”
Jared pulls to a stop in front of Jensen’s hotel room. Sun just beginning to peek over the tops of the clouds. He keeps his hands on the wheel, needs the support to get his next words out.
“Has anyone ever told you you drive like an old lady?” Jensen’s grin slips off when he takes in Jared’s serious expression.
“What do you call it—“ Jared starts tentatively, “When you miss someone when they’re not around. And every time you separate, you wish there was a way you didn’t have to.”
“Sounds like a lot of things.” Jensen gives an enigmatic answer to match his enigmatic stare.
“Sounds like just one to me.” His palms are sweating profusely, grip tight enough on the wheel to make his hands hurt. “Are you and Chris—together?”
“Why do you want to know?” He’s intent on hearing it. No euphemisms, no beating around the bush. Jared isn’t quite there yet.
“Answer the question,” he pleads softly.
“Chris is gay for business, not pleasure,” he reassures.
Jared breathes easier. Reaches out a shaky hand, caresses Jensen’s cheek with the backside, the one not sweaty and gross from how petrified he is to be doing this. Making the overture for once. Edging ever closer to uttering those words. That might give him everything or take it all away.
His hand drops. “I never wanted to be that guy. Like my father. That treated women like that,” he tells Jensen again. “I love women, they’re—goddesses but—“ He falters, lost as to what he wants to say.
“You’re only sort of attracted to them?”
He tosses up his hands. “I don’t know. I still don’t—I don’t know if I ever was or if the guilt just killed my libido. I don’t even know if I like other guys, I just—know how I feel about you,” he finishes a little helplessly.
Jensen gazes at him in understanding. “No one’s asking you know everything about yourself. Some people go through their whole lives without ever really knowing who they are. But Jared—“
“Move in with me,” he interrupts.
Dazedly, Jensen blinks. “I can’t. You know I can’t.”
“Why not?” He hates how young he sounds but he meant what he said, he doesn’t want to be apart from Jensen anymore. This would fix it all.
“First and foremost, I can’t leave Chris. I know he can be a dick but—I owe him my life and I can’t just walk away from that. Not even sure I want to.” The last sentence is a wounding one, intentional or not. Jared stares at his lap.
“Sports medicine,” Jensen says out of the blue. “When you asked me about school. That’s what I was going for. I played baseball in high school. Pretty decent, was looking to get a scholarship to one of the state schools. If I had—I guess everything would have been different.”
Jared lets him go on, having heard so little of how he came to be where he was. He doesn’t want to break the spell, cause Jensen to retreat back behind his instinctive walls.
“My parents got divorced when I was sixteen. Dad never did want much to do with us and I had some problems handling it. Nothing major, just hanging around with idiots, breaking shit and getting high. But I spent six months in juvie for it. Really stressed my Mom. When I got out I cleaned up, got back into baseball and things were good for a while.”
“She got re-married the next year. A doctor. It all seemed perfect at first. People like that always seem perfect but I’ve seen their real faces. More than I care to.”
He shakes his head to clear the vision and Jared’s stomach sinks in the certainty of where this is going.
“It started a couple months after that. Cold, clinical voice in my ear like I was some textbook case he could get to the bottom of and crack. I told him to go fuck himself but—he said I had two choices. I could give him what he wanted or he’d convince my mother I was acting out again. Get her to kick me out and cut me off. Maybe military school if I was lucky.”
“You didn’t think she would believe you?” Jared questions delicately.
“Didn’t want to take the chance. So I took it. For a year, I took it. I just thought if I could graduate, I could leave. It’d be over.”
“Couldn’t make it. Three fucking months left and I let the bastard get to me. I went the fuck off at dinner one night, threatened him with a dull ass knife. And that was allmy Mom saw. She called the cops and I ran. Started hustIing. Went back and got my G.E.D. and thought I could hack community college but—I was too fucked up. Then Chris came along and—he got me to sing and—can you understand where I’m coming from?”
“I can,” Jared answers honestly. Feeling like a terrible person for ever criticizing Jensen and his choices. He had no idea what it was to live a life that rough. Not even close. Just because there was no love lost between he and Chris didn’t mean he didn’t mean the world to Jensen. It was presumptuous and stupid to assume he’d just say yes.
“Part of me wants to go with you.” By no means is it a yes but Jared’s heart soars at that. To know that he isn’t alone in this. Overeager kid with his heart on his sleeve and his head in the clouds.
“But even without Chris, experience tells me you’re too good to be true.”
“Everyone says so but I’m not. I’m not even necessarily that nice,” he tries.
“Yes, you are. You got everything ahead of you. Anyone you want if you just let yourself go. But I was your first. First times always feel like the end of the world. If I say yes and end up tossed along the wayside when the novelty wears off—“
“I would never,” Jared swears. The gaze he receives is fond, wishing it could be wholly convinced that was true.
“I’ve been with a lot of guys,” he says cautiously, like Jared’s still going to bolt on him. Look at him with disgust. Call him a whore. “Heard a lot of bullshit promises that didn’t last longer than the night, the next drink. Plenty of people told me they loved me. Heard it enough it stopped meaning a damn thing.”
Jared lets him go on, swallows down the pain that Jensen has anything to associate him with the callous losers and hollow promises he’s used to.
“You didn’t say it to me,” he continues, bordering on wonder. “Instead, you said how nice I was helping you and that I was—“
“What?” Jared prods softly.
“Someone you could love if things were different.”
“What do you think? You tell me. Are they different enough now?”
Jared is across the seat in a flash, kissing his heart and soul out, all his genuine love and devotion, the belonging and completeness he feels when they’re together. So new to him. He just wants Jensen to see a fraction of it, then he would know beyond a doubt that Jared is for real. Not lovesick, not experimenting. In love with him, more and more every day.
Unseen by either as the need pours out of them both in clashing tongues, fevered kisses and whispers, Chris watches the car from the corner, expression dark and distrustful.
Jared’s first student teaching outing is shaping up to be one of the longest, most mentally exhausting days of his life. Wrangling twenty-five precious, little angels (read: unholy terrors) who all have the attention span of Chad, along with lots of arts and crafts supplies to make a mess with, is wearing him out.
Working with them before, he’d always had help. This is him trying to keep a lid on the chaos all by his lonesome while one of the evaluators sits in the corner with a bemused, potentially evil smile, periodically making notes on a legal pad.
He does his best to stop the nervousness from showing on his face, and goes down the line, checking that the kids are all attempting to make something—and not eat it. The results are eclectic to say the least and the toothless smiles that beam up at him with pride elicits one from him as well.
A little girl with jet-black hair, Veronica the thinks her name is, tugs on his pant leg. “You’re tall,” she points out to him. “Thank you. That’s why I get to be in charge, ‘cause I’m the tallest.”
“Will you be my boyfriend?” His eyebrows raise. “I might be a little old for you. Why do you want a boyfriend?”
“That boy pushed me at Recess.” She points across the room to a sandy-haired boy named Kevin. “ If you were my boyfriend you could beat him up ‘cause you’re so big.”
“Are you sure you can’t work things out with Kevin? Hitting someone is never a good idea. Better to talk. That’s what grown-ups do when they have problems.” Ideally.
“He’s a jerk, I don’t want to talk to him.”
“You never know, he might say he’s sorry. Come on,” he takes her tiny hand and leads over to where Kevin is gluing cotton balls to a piece of construction paper.
“What you making?” Jared starts off conversationally.
“Snow man.” He’s focused too, barely looks up from the page.
“Do you think Veronica could make a snow man next to you?”
“I guess. Do you need some glue?” He offers her the sticky bottle and she snatches it from him roughly. “Veronica,” Jared warns. “Kevin was nice to you, that means you need to be nice back.”
“Sorry,” she mumbles half-heartedly.
Leaving those two, he makes his rounds one last time before calling an end to arts and crafts time. One by one the kids put their pictures on the counter top in the back of the room to dry. Then comes putting away the supplies in the correct bins, which takes a little while as many of them need gentle prodding to not shove everything into a single box.
“Okay,” Jared addresses them once they’ve gathered back into a group. “What did we learn from arts and crafts time?”
“Share!” a little girl screams.
“Put everything back when you’re done,” a boy adds.
“Be nice to everyone’s picture,” a third girl chirps.
“Good job guys, those are all important things. But you forgot one—have fun!” The kids cheer uproariously and a few start dancing. He chuckles and thinks he sees his evaluator smirking in a good way but he officially wasn’t looking so he can’t be one-hundred percent on that.
“Now, let’s do some math,” he pulls out the flash cards to a chorus of boos and groans. I know your pain he thinks, Math sucks. To make things more interesting, he uses some of the kids for addition examples, which seems to make them happy.
To his surprise, the day flies by. Once he found his groove, the trepidation he’d been battling vanished and he remembered why he wanted to do this. It was overwhelming and disorganized but this was where a lot of these kids would learn to socialize and interact with others for the first time. Crucial skills and a world of responsibility for him to ensure they grasped them.
The last parent arrives to pick up their kid and Jared speaks with the woman, the mother, for a few minutes about the state of public education. Particularly the bane of standardized testing, which teachers tend to despise.
She checks the time and waves good bye to Jared, holding her son’s hand on the way out. His evaluator startles the bejeezus out of him by sneaking up while his back was turned, closing the door. “Mr. Padalecki, your grade and my comments should be available by the end of the week. You can pick them up at my office in Smith Hall,” she says authoritatively.
“But, just between us,” she leans in, “You nailed it, kid.” She smiles as much as her face appears capable of and Jared shakes her hand furiously. “Thank you so much.”
With a curt nod, she exits back into the hallway. Jared gives himself about a thirty second birth before he does a Breakfast Club style fist salute in the air, grinning like a loon.
Outside, it somehow grows even larger. Jensen is leaning against his car, holding a grocery bag. “I take it things went well?”
“Things went awesome,” he gushes.
“These are for you,” Jensen thrusts the bag at him nervously. It’s an odd look on him. Inside, is an assortment of cookie brands. “I can’t cook for shit as you know but I just wanted to—“
Jared cuts him off by shoving him up against the side of the car and licking into his mouth. Bodies pressed fully against each other, Jared aligns their dicks and grinds experimentally, daring and elated. Jensen breaks the kiss to gasp into his mouth at the contact and Jared’s seeing stars.
“Do cookies always get you this excited?” Jensen pants. Jared laughs and kisses him on the cheek in gratitude.
Of all the things he expected to see as he walked into his bedroom, giddy from Jensen and his performance review, Sandy was perhaps not the last—there’s a variety of wacky things he could come up with but she ranks respectably high on the out of the blue list.
“Sorry to barge in like this. I thought we should talk.”
Because it went so well the last time. Apprehensive, he sits next to her. “Where’s Chad?”
“I broke it off.”
“I bet he took it pretty hard. He was really crazy about you.”
“I know, but I don’t feel that way about him. I never should’ve gone out with him either, it was—hurtful and stupid. I just thought—“
“It might get under my skin?” Jared fills in the blanks.
She smiles forlornly. “Pretty eighth grade, right? I hurt him, Jared. And Sophia, after she stood up for me. I’m so fucking ashamed of myself.” He takes her hand, squeezes it reassuringly as she wipes away the tears that streak down.
“When we first met, I thought you were gay. Maybe I always sort of thought it. When you told me what happened—I felt like you lied to me. Not in words but, you convinced me that you loved me, but it was all fake.”
“I did love you,” he promises her. “But I don’t know what I am. Not yet. But this guy—Jensen, I think I love him. I know it’s fast—“
“I want to be happy for you but— I just wish it was me. That you could have felt comfortable enough to be yourself around me. I wouldn’t have lost you.” She rests her cheek on their joined hands and Jared’s heart breaks a little. The maelstrom of emotion he’s been put through coming to terms with Jensen, he barely thought of her. Convinced he was past it.
But a part of him would love Sandy forever. It just wasn’t enough. Not the right time. He has to hurt her all over again because he can’t fake it. Not anymore. “I’m sorry, Sandy. I’m so sorry.”
“This is supposed to be my apology, remember?” she laughs through the tears. “You can’t help it. I’m just—not the one.”
He unlinks their fingers, gazing at her miserably.
“I hope it’s real, Jared. You’re a bad liar. To everyone but yourself.” There’s pain and heartache fueling those words, but truth as well. She wipes her face again, make-up runny and smeared, reflecting how she must be feeling on the inside.
“I’ve got to talk to Sophia and Chad too. I better go.” She leaves his bedroom for the last time and Jared is left with the knowledge that he fucked up hugely and Sandy bore the brunt of it. Is this what’s in store for Jensen too? Only worse because so many assholes have used him and thrown him away before Jared?
He doesn’t begin to know how to tell the difference between fleeting and lasting. Real and fake. Swoon and love. All he can do is be himself. Honest. And hope he knows himself better now than he ever has before.
On to Part Six