Title: A Series of Images
Fandom: Supernatural RPF AU
Characters/Pairing: J2 & Misha
Word Count: 4,779
Disclaimer: It's all lies!
Summary: Life is a series of images, changing as they repeat themselves. Or, how Jensen finally figures out what’s been waiting for him all along.
Author's Notes Thanks so much to my wonderful beta who manages to make the story three times as good as I could ever do on my own. A massive thank you to the talented artist candygramme. You've been a joy to work with. Please take a moment to go check out the amazing art she's made for the story. It's her first experience with this type of challenge, and we can always use more talented artists like her!
Jensen cradles the phone between his shoulder and cheek, covering the receiver with two fingers as he yells out the window, “Hey, jackass! Put your fucking phone down and watch the road!”
Jared chuckles on the other end. “You know I could hear all that, don’t you?”
Jensen grumbles and pushes the button to close the window. “People can’t drive for shit.”
“That’s LA traffic for you,” Jared responds reasonably. “What’s funny is how you thought today would be different than any other day during rush hour.”
“One can always hope,” Jensen mutters. He pulls alongside the shiny BMW and smiles sweetly, giving the erratic driver a one finger salute.
“So, anyway, are we still on for dinner tonight?” Jared asks. “And stop flipping off the other driver, Jen. One day someone is going to shoot your ass.”
Jensen’s eyes widen. “It’s creepy how well you know me.”
“It’s only been, what? Seven years?”
Jensen smiles at the thought. “And you still like me.”
Jared chuckles, but it falls a little flat. It’s hard to tell, though. Probably just the phone. “Yeah, I like you. You and all your many, many faults.”
“You see faults. I see all the little things that make me special.”
“Is that what they’re calling it these days?”
“You already said you liked me. You can’t take it back now,” Jensen replies, yanking on the steering wheel to pull alongside a yacht-sized Lincoln whose white-haired driver can barely see over the dash.
“Yeah, yeah. Get over yourself,” Jared mutters teasingly. “So, dinner tonight at eight–”
“Wait,” Jensen interjects. “That was tonight?”
Jared sighs. “Yeah, I only reminded you three times this week. Once by phone call, one text, and I left a message with your assistant.”
Jensen eyes the pile of folders on the passenger seat, the bright orange post-it note mocking him. Dinner with Jared – 8 sharp. Don’t forget! He’s just now noticing the smaller print: And wear something nice, asshole. He winces and rubs his forehead. Jared’s suggestion of dinner had been met with Jensen’s vague agreement, and it had been shoved into the back of his mind, left in the ‘to be filed later’ drawer with all the other things Jensen didn’t have time to process.
“Shit, Jared. I’m sorry, man, I completely–”
“Forgot. Yeah, I know. Don’t worry about it.”
“Hey, Misha and Chad will be there, right? It’s not like you need me there slowing down the whole parade.”
“Misha and Chad?” Jared repeats. “Why would they be there?”
“Uh… cause they’re your friends?”
“Misha is your friend,” Jared clarifies. “And I didn’t ask them to come.”
“That line stopped working in college when Misha got you high for the first time and you two went skinny dipping together.”
“Don’t ever bring that up again.”
Jensen’s laugh turns into a grimace as his phone beeps to signal an incoming call. He glances at the screen and recognizes the number of his new client. He’s paid to be on call and available 24/7, and he’s paid well. Very well. “Jared, I gotta take this call.”
“Yeah, sure. No problem, Jen. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Dinner this weekend, I promise. My treat.” It’s a feeble replacement, like how Jensen sent tickets to Disney World or another expensive theme park when he forgot his nephew’s birthday. It’s a task he’s recently delegated to his assistant, even if she still makes him sign the card.
Jared sighs, and Jensen can tell by his tone that he doesn’t believe him when he says, “Sure. This weekend.”
Jensen presses the accept button before he can reassure him any further. “Jensen Ackles.”
He’s neck deep in reciting environmental law and state statutes and doesn’t see the flash of headlights or the careening car that skids through the red light. He barely registers the screech of tires and the breaking glass before his world goes black.
“This is going to rock so hard,” Misha announces as they push their way through the crowded hallway.
“It’s college. It’s supposed to rock.”
“It’s not just college, Jensen – it’s our last year. That means it rocks by default. The world is our oyster and all that jazz,” Misha announces. “I shouldn’t have to explain this to you.”
“It’s your last year, not mine.”
“Well, not all of us want to be some kind of hotshot lawyer,” Misha says. “If you weren’t such an overachiever, you could skip studying tonight and get drunk with us. It’s quarter beer night at Dirty Nelly’s.”
“And it’s going to be quarter beer night at the Market Street Pub tomorrow, and quarter beer night at Dwyer’s on Wednesday, and…”
“You’ve seen the schedule,” Misha interjects proudly. “Good.”
“It was taped to the fridge with a note that said, ‘Read me, bitches.’ How could I miss it?”
“Jensen, I’ve seen you miss three naked women in your bed. Forgive me if I’m not confident in your ability to notice the disgustingly obvious.”
“First, fuck you. I was tired. And second…” Jensen pauses, eyes tracking a tall, skinny kid fumbling his way through the corridor with his schedule hanging from his mouth and his eyes scanning the crowd like he’s trying spot someone, anyone familiar. “Just fuck you.”
Misha follows his line of sight down the hallway and raises his eyebrow as he watches the kid drop half his books on the floor, papers spreading everywhere. “Fresh meat.”
Jensen’s already moving through the crowd with practiced ease before dropping to one knee to collect the scattered papers and shove them into the open chemistry book.
“Oh, wow. This is…”
“Crazy?” Jensen offers as he gently sets the book on top of the stack the other man’s collected.
“Yeah, crazy. That’s a nice way to put it.”
“I’m Jensen,” Jensen offers quietly and then tugs on a plaid-covered arm before the guy gets trampled by a group of girls running by.
“I’m Jared. It’s my first day.”
“Is it really? Never would have guessed that.”
“Do you have a car?” Misha asks, appearing out of nowhere.
Jared’s eyes widen and he blinks a few times like he’s trying to process the question. “Um… yes?”
“And this is Misha,” Jensen says. “Ignore him as much as possible.”
“You wish,” Misha replies as he grabs Jared’s hand and starts scribbling on his palm. “Tonight we’re going to Nelly’s.”
“I’m eighteen,” Jared says hesitantly as he eyes the address written on his hand in permanent black marker. “I can’t drink.”
“No, but you can drive,” Misha says with a devious grin. “Pick us up at eight.”
Misha squeezes his shoulder and winks. “That’s a good lad. Come along, Jensen. I hear there’s a band playing in the quad.”
Jensen gives Jared an apologetic smile. “You don’t have to show. In fact, if you were smart, you’d run the other way and never look back.”
Jared chuckles and blows the hair out of his eyes. “Save myself?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Thanks for the advice.”
Jensen smiles again. “Sure thing. I’ll see you around.”
Jensen jogs to catch up with Misha who’s already halfway down the front steps of the administration building. “Way to freak out the new kid, Misha.”
Misha gives him a lazy half-smile, the one that says ‘I know something you don’t and I’m way smarter than you so don’t even bother trying to figure it out.’ “Are you kidding? I just altered the course of his young life, and believe me when I say it was for the better.”
Jensen shakes his head. “He’s not going to show.”
“Oh, he’ll show. Trust me on this. He’ll show.”
Despite Jensen’s advice, Jared does show up. He shows up again two days later, and then for a barbeque on the weekend, and the following week and eventually, after his freshman year, he shows up at their house on an idle Tuesday with a duffel bag, an armful of books, and after a shrug, he says, “I’m always here anyway.” He doesn’t leave again.
“Ngh…” Jared’s hunched over, one arm curled around the toilet seat and the other is pressed flat against the white cover, bracing himself.
“Hey, easy,” Jensen soothes as he steps into the bathroom and closes the door behind him. The smell of vomit mixed with regurgitated alcohol is overpowering, and Jensen swallows down the bile inching up his throat. “It’s okay.”
“I hate my life,” Jared moans. He doesn’t even try to wipe the drool off his sweaty face. He’s so far past having any dignity left.
“Don’t be like that. You’re twenty-one now; life is just beginning.”
“My life is over.”
“Now you’re just being dramatic.”
“I’m not being dramatic. I’m dying. Why the hell did you–” The rest of the sentence is derailed by violent retching as Jared heaves into the toilet. His stomach is empty, having vomited up everything he’s eaten in the last week. There might have been some pixie sticks in there that he ate when he was four.
Jensen fills a glass of water from the sink and sets in on the counter. He tries to hold Jared’s hair out of his face, but it’s nearly a losing battle as Jared’s body trembles and spasms. “Are you going to believe me if I tell you this is a rite of passage?”
Jared curls his fingers under so only his middle finger is prominently displayed against the white backdrop of porcelain.
“Well, it is. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing. Figuring life out, living it, making mistakes, whatever.” Jensen pauses to rub at the tense muscles in Jared’s neck. “And for the record, I told you not to drink that shit Misha made.”
“I don’t remember anything past ‘chug, chug, chug’ and something about a keg stand.”
Jensen smiles above him. “That’s probably for the best. Anyway, you can always catch the highlights tomorrow on YouTube.” Jared groans, and Jensen quickly adds, “But hey. Look at the bright side! You’re still wearing your pants.”
Jared dry heaves a couple of times and spits into the toilet.
Jensen presses a cool washcloth over his forehead and pulls him back so he can flush the contents down. “Think you’re done?”
Jared coughs and wipes his mouth on the damp cloth. “I think so.”
Jensen helps him to his feet, keeping one arm around his waist as he passes him the glass of water. “Rinse and spit a few times.”
Jared follows his instructions and finally downs the rest of the water. It’s a small victory when it doesn’t come rushing back up. Jensen passes him an Advil and refills the glass. “Don’t chug it or you’ll get sick again.”
Jared follows him out of the bathroom and they barely keep from stepping on Misha who’s passed out on the floor in the middle of the hallway. At least he’s still wearing most of his clothes. “It’s not a party until someone passes out,” Jensen mutters as he leads Jared to his room.
He pushes open the door and nearly slams it again at the sight of Chad and Danneel passed out across Jared’s bed. It wasn’t long enough to get an eyeful, but it sure looked like a lot of skin on display. There’s going to be hell to pay for that in the morning. Chad and Danneel don’t even like each other.
“Do I want to know?” Jared whispers from behind him.
Jensen blinks, trying to block Chad’s naked thigh from his mind. “No, you don’t. Come on.”
Jensen leads him farther down the hall, pulls his key out of his pocket. “Another life lesson: always lock your door when there’s a raging party going on.” He pushes the door open and Jared follows him inside. “Make yourself…” Jared collapses face first on the bed with a groan. “Comfortable,” Jensen finishes.
He pulls a trashcan out of the corner and sets it on the floor close to Jared. “If you need to puke again, the trashcan is next to you. If you puke in my bed, I’ll fucking end you. You hear me?”
“I always listen to you,” Jared murmurs as he wraps his arms around one of Jensen’s pillows, presses his face against the soft cotton and takes a deep breath.
“You don’t listen for shit,” Jensen chuckles as he tugs off Jared’s sneakers.
Jensen swaps his jeans for a pair of worn sweatpants that have been washed to the point of being threadbare and irresistibly soft. He peels off his shirt and slowly eases into the bed after verifying the alarm clock has been switched off.
“S’nice,” Jared murmurs.
Jensen turns his head and Jared’s profile is shadowed by the soft streetlight bleeding through the window blinds. “What’s nice?”
“Now I know you’re drunk.”
Jared chuckles, and Jensen feels the soft puffs of air against his shoulder. “You’ve been busy lately.”
“Law school tends to do that.”
“No, I know that. I just…” Before Jensen can prompt him to continue, Jared says, “Ignore me. I’m just drunk.”
“Now there’s something we can both agree upon,” Jensen replies. Jared doesn’t respond, his glassy eyes drifting closed, and after a few minutes Jensen runs his fingers lazily through Jared’s hair. He’s snoring softly, and Jensen smiles into the darkness. “Happy birthday, Jared.”
The stadium is packed with proud families and grinning college graduates draped in black robes. Jensen arrived late and opted for a seat closer to the back. Jared is surprising easily to spot, still managing to tower above most of his fellow graduates. He knows there’s no chance of Jared seeing him, so when his name is announced, Jensen jumps up with his arms raised and cheers as loud as he can for three seconds. The older white-haired grandmother sitting next to him raises her eyebrow, but Jensen can see the twinkle in her eyes when he sits back down and shrugs unapologetically.
She leans over and asks, “Brother?”
“Friend. A really good friend,” Jensen replies.
“Good friends are hard to find,” she says. “Be sure to keep him.”
Jensen chuckles. “He’s a pretty big guy. Kind of hard to lose track of.”
She rubs her withered knuckles across the indention in her ring finger as she looks across the stadium, eyes far away. “You’d be surprised,” she whispers. “One year turns into twenty and before you know it, people you loved are gone and you have no idea where the time went.” She shakes her head once, eyes focusing on Jensen, and smiles. “Enough of that. Today is for celebration.”
Jensen smiles at her and tries to imagine himself at her age, with all those years behind him, hopefully more good than bad. “So,” he prompts as he leans forward and nods to the graduates sitting on folding chairs on the floor of the stadium. “Which one is yours?”
“Thomas, my grandson,” she says as she points to the obscure sea of black. “He’s last.”
“Oh? You sure about that? There are a lot of graduates.”
“His last name is Zysk. That boy has been last all of his life.”
Jensen chuckles. “I can imagine.”
They listen as more names are called and families proudly clap as their loved ones walk across the stage and through another major milestone in their lives. They’re approaching the end of the line when she says, “I’m the only one here tonight for Thomas. I don’t think I can do as good as you did for your friend, but I hope he can see me.”
“He knows you’re here,” Jensen says.
“I wasn’t sure if I could make it. My health, well, let’s just say it isn’t the best these days.”
The last row is being called to line up next to the stage. “I can’t guarantee he can hear us,” Jensen says as he stands up and offers his hand. “But we can sure as hell try.”
She grins up at him, and he carefully pulls her to her feet. He keeps his arm around her shoulders, and she presses against his side for support. “You know, it’s been over fifteen years since a good looking man has held me like this.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Jensen says. “And my name is Jensen, by the way.”
“Mavry,” she replies with a smile.
When Thomas Zysk is called, Jensen and Mavry cheer as loud as they can, Jensen pumping one fist into the air and Mavry with her hands circled around her mouth. Several people turn in their seats, and Jensen swears he can see Jared shaking his head. Thomas stops only for a beat, then proudly reaches out to shake the Dean’s hand.
Jensen leaves Mavry after Thomas weaves his way up the stairs to her side. Jensen shakes his hand, offers his congratulations, and chuckles when Mavry tells him to go find his really good friend.
“Who was that, Grandma?” Thomas asks.
“A new friend,” Mavry replies.
Jensen loses the conversation as he pushes through the crowd, trying to find Jared and his family. It doesn’t take long, because Jared is standing next to the closed down beer stand where they always used to meet each other before basketball games. He’s taking pictures with a couple of his friends, barely able to keep his excitement contained as his body trembles with leashed energy.
Jensen pauses, watching Jared thrum with eagerness as realization curls in his gut. Jared’s beautiful like this, all energy and endless possibility. He could truly do anything, have anyone, and the man Jared’s become is someone Jensen’s proud to know and so very easy to love.
“The college graduate!” Jensen announces proudly after the camera phone is lowered.
Jared jerks his head up, and his grin is dangerously close to slipping off the sides of his face. “You made it!”
Jensen’s swallowed by a hug while saying, “’Course I fuckin’ made it.” He wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
Jared keeps his arm around his shoulder, radiating energy and enthusiasm. “But you’ve been preparing for your big interview with that firm, Dewie, Cheatum and Howe.”
Jensen rolls his eyes. “You’re so funny. Look at me. Not laughing at how funny you are.”
It’s like it is physically impossible for Jared to stop smiling. “I’m glad you came.”
“You graduated college. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. Speaking of big events, where the heck are your parents?”
Jared jerks his thumb over his shoulder at the parking lot. “They’re in the van waiting to take us to dinner.” Jared grabs his wrist and starts pulling him through the crowd. “Let’s go.”
“Dinner with your parents? When did I agree to this?”
“You’ve met them before, Jen. Many times. They like you more than me, anyway.”
“I didn’t graduate college tonight; they like you better right now.”
“You just graduated law school. If they could figure out how to adopt you, they would.”
“Okay, fine. I’ll go, but only if I can regale them with stories of your less than stellar exploits while they were spending their hard earned money on your higher education.” Jensen pauses, a wicked gleam in his eyes. “And I reserve the right to make many bad puns about just how ‘high’ of an education you received.”
Jared groans. “I can still kick your ass.”
“No you can’t.”
“Yes I can.”
“But you love my ass,” Jensen teases.
Jared sighs, put-upon but still smiling. “More than you know.” He pulls open the door to the minivan revealing the majority of the Padalecki family. Jared releases Jensen’s wrist long enough to push him inside, climb in after him, and declare it’s time to eat.
“Give a boy a college diploma and all of a sudden he can order his parents around,” his father mutters mock-sternly from the driver’s seat.
Jared has essentially been holding his hand for the last five minutes, and Jensen doesn’t notice until he’s pulled away.
“Tell me again why this is my problem,” Jensen mumbles as he rubs his temples.
“I never said it was your problem. I said you need to talk to him,” Misha clarifies. Despite their near equal height and the fact that they’re sitting down, Misha is one of those people who always manages to look down at him. It’s not intentional; it’s just Misha.
“And say what exactly? So Jared and Tom broke up. They were only dating for a few weeks. As long as it doesn’t get weird when we all hang out, I really don’t see why it’s any of our business.”
“It was Tom this week, Marcus a couple of months ago, Barry before that, then Justin and some other guy whom I’ve blocked from memory because he tried to hit on Danneel in front of Jared, and before that–”
Jensen lifts his hand. “Okay, I get it. I don’t need you recounting Jared’s latest and greatest conquests.”
“You’re a relatively intelligent man, Jensen. You should be able to piece this together without me spelling it out for you.”
Jensen sighs and closes the client file on his desk after it becomes clear Misha isn’t going to leave until they’ve hashed this out, or at least until Misha gets sick of using little words to explain it to him, throws his hands in the air and stomps off.
“Jared sucks at relationships,” Jensen concludes. “This is hardly breaking news.”
“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong,” Misha says as he rakes intricate patterns in the sand of the little Zen garden he’d gifted to Jensen when he landed a corner office. “He sucks at relationships with them.”
“I fail to see the difference.”
Misha blinks at him. “You can’t possibly–” He drops his head on the desk, narrowly missing the plate of sand. “You really are that dumb.”
Jensen waves his paralegal away when she appears in the window and nervously mouths security? “Look, I’ll talk to him, okay? For all the good it will do. He’s a grown man, Misha. If he wants to have crappy sex with–”
“Wait,” Misha says, lifting his head. Jensen grabs the piece of paper that’s stuck to his forehead and drops it with the rest of the motions he needs to file in court tomorrow. “Who said the sex was crappy?”
Jensen shrugs. “It was inferred.”
“It’s been so long since you’ve gotten laid, you wouldn’t know good sex if it crawled up between your naked thighs and–”
“It’s time for you to go,” Jensen interjects, standing. He grabs Misha’s shoulder and pulls him out of his seat. “Next time call, okay? You make the staff nervous.”
“It builds character.”
“They don’t need any more character,” Jensen mutters as he escorts Misha to the elevators.
“Talk to him, okay?” Misha asks again after the elevator chimes and the door slides open.
“I said I would.”
Misha holds the door open and the elevator beeps its displeasure. “Tonight.”
“Yes, tonight,” Jensen promises as he peels Misha’s fingers away from the metal doorway. “Goodbye, Misha.” He waits for the door to close before returning to his office and the stack of mounting paperwork that needs to be reviewed, and the inbox full of emails that need to be read and replied to.
It’s nearly eleven when he leaves the office. It’s too late to call Jared tonight, but he promises himself he’ll call tomorrow.
After spending the next two days in depositions and the following day in court, he gets a text from Jared asking if he’d like to have drinks him and Taylor on Friday night. Jensen’s first thought is who the fuck is Taylor?
Having your life flash before your eyes isn’t as spectacular as people on television lead you to believe. It’s not his growing, brilliant legal career that he sees, the complex cases he’s fought in court and won. Not once does he think of the fancy house he lives in alone, the timeshare he bought that he’s yet to use, or the money he’s got saved in his bank account. For Jensen it’s a series of broken commitments and missed opportunities. Life happened while he was busy doing other things. Jared happened, and Jensen had missed it. He doesn’t hear his name that’s uttered amongst fellow attorneys and legal circles with hard-fought and earned respect and awe. He hears the way Jared says his name, a quiet, huffy breath mixed with irritation and longing, that makes Jensen’s heart skip a beat. If he has anything to barter, anything of value, real value, he’d sell it now to hear Jared’s voice again.
“Shh. Easy, Jen,” a gentle voice murmurs.
Jensen draws on energy he doesn’t possess, swallows the pain, and forces an eye open; the bright fluorescent lighting makes him try to pull away.
“Holy shit, you’re awake! Nurse! No, don’t move, Jen. You’ll pull your IV out.” Hands are pressing against his shoulders, his chest, a fleeting touch across his forehead. “Come on. Open your eyes. I know you can do it. Look at me.” The voice cracks. “Please, look at me.”
“Oh, thank fuck. I mean–” He gives an apologetic smile to the nurse standing in the doorway, and Jensen sees the flash of white teeth. It’s stupidly beautiful and ridiculously perfect. “Thank God.”
“No worries. I’ve heard it all before,” the nurse says with a chuckle as she moves around the bed. “You gave us all quite a scare, young man.” She putters around checking the IV and adjusting the oxygen tubing. “The doctor will be in shortly. You just sit tight and I’ll get your pain medicine, okay?”
Jared thanks her, and Jensen mumbles what he hopes is a thank you, his eyes never leaving Jared’s face. Jared’s still holding his shoulder, long fingers brushing against his neck. “I need to call your parents.”
“My parents?” Jensen says blankly. “Why?” He realizes it’s a stupid question when Jared’s eyes open impossibly wide.
“Why? They’re flying in. You were unconscious, Jen. You were–” He runs one hand through his hair distractedly. “Fuck, Jen. They wouldn’t tell me anything at first. Then it was just a waiting game.” Jared’s hand returns to his shoulder seeking comfort, fingers pressing against his skin and Jensen leans closer, his body craving the touch, the closeness. “Misha’s gone to get coffee. He’s going to be pissed you woke up while he was gone.”
Jensen doesn’t know what to say. What can he say? “I’m sorry.”
“For waking up while Misha was gone? He’ll get over it. Trust me,” Jared promises, his voice gentle and warm.
It saps whatever waning energy Jensen has to shake his head. “No, not for that.”
“For the accident?” Jared asks. His fingers tighten slightly when he says, “Some dumbass kid was texting and ran the red light. That’s not your fault. None of this is your fault.”
Jensen’s thoughts are spotty, distant, and he tries to piece together broken words and form coherent sentences. “No, not the accident. Just… everything else.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but–” Jensen manages to get his hand around Jared’s wrist and he squeezes as much as his diminishing strength allows. He needs Jared to understand this. Whatever this is, it’s a gift and Jensen’s not going to make the same mistakes twice. “Okay, you’re sorry. I accept your apology. Can I call your parents now?” Jared tries to pull away, but Jensen refuses to let him go. He’s not going to get this wrong. “Jen, I really need to call your parents. I’m just going to step into the hall – it’ll take two seconds. I’ll come right back.”
“Have dinner with me.”
Jared freezes with his iPhone halfway out of his pocket. “What?”
“Have dinner with me,” Jensen repeats as he meets Jared’s wide-eyed stare. “Just me. No one else.” Jared’s holding his breath, and Jensen ends with a soft, “Please.”
A warm smile spreads across Jared’s tired face, and it’s like watching the sun come out after a violent storm. “Okay, Jen. I’d like that.”
And just like that, the world has somehow righted itself. It’s not everything, but it’s a damn good start. “Now go call my parents,” Jensen orders as he resettles on the bed, watching the possibilities stretch out before him.
“Always so bossy,” Jared mutters as he taps the screen of his phone. He pauses at the doorway, gives Jensen one more intimate smile that speaks of promise and the future, and disappears down the hall.
You only live once, but if he does it right this time, Jensen thinks once will be enough.
This story was inspired by this gorgeous piece of art: