Genre: J2 AU
Word Count: ~30,000 in five parts and epilogue.
Summary: Jensen knew that he wasn't an uptight person--he was just organized. Jared wasn't as irresponsible as Jensen thought he was--he just knew how to kick back and have a good time. For very different reasons, they each decide to take a cross-country road trip to the west coast. Because of some unexpected circumstances, they end up learning a little about themselves and a lot about each other.
A Thousand Miles Behind ~ Epilogue
“Hi Jared,” the research librarian greeted him in the stairwell as Jared arrived on the landing to the top floor of the library. “Hitting the books again?”
“You could call it that,” Jared said, sending a prize-winning smile her way, and opening the door to the group study area. The room was more crowded than usual, with small groups of students gathered together in last minute cramming sessions for finals. Jared’s smile grew into a grin and his heart skipped a beat when he saw Jensen’s familiar form in the far corner of the room. Jensen was sitting alone at a table, a neat stack of books piled beside his elbow; his head was bowed over the three large open volumes in front of him. Jared wondered if he would ever grow accustomed to the sight of him, whether the feeling that he got in his stomach whenever Jensen looked at him would eventually wear off.
Jared dashed over and pulled a chair up beside him. He leaned heavily onto Jensen and peered at the tiny print of the nearest open book. “Law,” he said with a shake of his head. “You can count that one off the list.”
Jensen sat back and placed a hand on Jared’s thigh where it pressed up against his own. “What list?”
“The list of stuff I’m not going to study in this fine and outrageously expensive institution. I’ve decided to go backward, you know, figure out everything I really don’t want to do, since I still can’t figure out what I do want to do. It was Misha’s idea.”
“I think that Misha is just trying to keep you out of his hair. Do you need to borrow my organizer? This project of yours sounds extensive. You could use a graph, a game plan, or just somewhere you could write down that list.”
“I’ve got it all up here,” Jared replied, tapping a finger to his temple.
Jensen grunted, and returned his gaze to the book in front of him, subconsciously moving his thumb in slow circles along Jared’s thigh. After flipping through a few more pages, Jensen asked suddenly, “You want to get out of here?” He closed the books in front of him and added them back to the tall stack.
“What, and miss out on a prime opportunity to sit around and do nothing but watch you study all afternoon? I wouldn’t dream of it,” Jared teased, but secretly thought that spending a few hours watching Jensen read would be time well spent.
“Just because you’ve finished your last exam doesn’t mean you should rub it in. How’d it go, anyway?”
“The jury is still out on that one,” Jared said, making a face.
“Didn’t you study for it last night?”
“Kinda,” Jared began, helping Jensen gather his belongings into his backpack. “After I left your place, I started to. I mean, I really meant to, but then they brought out this beer pong table, and they needed an extra person for the team, and who was I to let down a fellow classmate over a little sociology final?” He followed Jensen as he weaved between tables toward the heavy metal door in the back.
Sometime in the last couple of weeks, and somewhere along the side of an icy road in western Kansas, Jared and Jensen had learned how to walk together. It was a little thing, but it was one of those little things that are often so important. Without realizing it, Jared shortened his strides some when he walked alongside Jensen. Likewise, Jensen sped up a bit when he was with Jared. Now, as the two men made their way down the concrete hallway, they walked easily side by side, steps matching and hips and elbows brushing at all the right times.
They climbed the narrow stairway leading to the rooftop, and walked through the door, Jensen pausing to prop it open with a cinderblock he had smuggled in a few days ago for that purpose.
A few steps onto the flat roof and Jared stopped short. “What’s all this?”
“It’s nothing,” Jensen muttered, rubbing a hand absently at the back of his head, “I just thought you’d could use some post-finals decompression.”
“How’d you do it?”
“Let’s just say that I have friends in high places.”
“But you’re afraid of heights. You don’t like being out here by yourself.”
“I’m trying to broaden my horizons,” Jensen shrugged, but eyed the low wall surrounding the roof suspiciously.
There were a set of bright green lawn chairs facing the west side of campus, a small table between them. A beach umbrella was angled in a stand, and small paper lanterns hung from the wooden slats, their colors glinting bright in the light of the setting sun. A six-pack of beer was beneath the table, chilling in the snow that covered the roof.
“This is perfect,” Jared said, turning to Jensen.
“It’s not much,” Jensen started, and then Jared was there, tilting Jensen’s head back and bringing their lips together in a slow and easy kiss. When they parted, Jensen whispered, “If I’d known it would get this sort of reaction out of you, I would’ve done it a week ago.”
He took Jared by the hand and led them to the chairs. “Beer?” he asked, handing a bottle to Jared and digging through his pockets for the opener on his key chain. The bottle opener was a new addition, a gift from Jared. According to him, it was part of his initiation into the cult of the college student. Jensen had rolled his eyes when Jared gave it to him, but secretly adored it.
“We should wait to christen our new spot until tomorrow. Then we can both drink obligation-free beer,” Jared reasoned.
“We can always drink again tomorrow,” Jensen suggested instead.
“You’re starting to sound like me.”
Jared and Jensen sat in silence nursing their beers and staring at nothing for awhile. Jared looked out across the campus, it was one of his favorite views, and he was looking forward to watching it change when spring started to take hold, when everything looked new.
He wondered what color Jensen’s favorite t-shirt was, the first one he would wear when it was finally warm enough to wear one, it seemed like something he should know. Even though the events of the last couple of weeks had been like a crash course in learning about Jensen, Jared was impatient to find out more. Even knowing everything didn’t seem like enough.
When he went for a second beer, Jensen asked, “Did you get into that writing seminar you were waitlisted for?”
Rubbing his temples as if he had a headache, Jared groaned. “It’s at three in the afternoon on Fridays. I thought there was a constitutional amendment against those kinds of things. But, yeah, I got in.”
“Now who’s starting to sound like who, with afternoon classes on a Friday?”
“As long as we don’t start to sound like Misha, I think we’ll be fine.”
“You just may be on to something there,” Jensen agreed.
Jensen scooted his chair over toward Jared a little and reached out a leg to bump boots with him. It was a little quirk with Jensen; he was always hooking a leg or an ankle around Jared’s, or placing a hand on his arm. It was as endearing as the way Jensen chewed on his bottom lip when he was thinking too much. He ran his cold knuckles along the slightly rough skin of Jared’s jaw, and then wormed his hand into Jared’s jacket pocket.
This was another idiosyncrasy of Jensen’s, and as Jensen twined their fingers together, Jared decided that so far it was his favorite one.
“You’ve got your own pockets,” Jared said, but gave Jensen’s hand a gentle squeeze nonetheless.
“I know. But I like yours better.”
“Why’s that?” Jared asked.
“Because you’re in there.”