Genre: Jared/Jensen College AU
Word Count: 7,300
Notes: Written for neros_violin over at the spn_j2_xmas exchange. I took a couple of your fantastic prompts and some of what you like, tossed it in a blender and set the thing to liquefy. I do hope you enjoy the result. Endless thanks to radiophile for the beta and the vote of confidence, and especially for asking me the right questions at the right time. Many thanks to the mods over yonder for running such a tight ship.
Summary: Sometimes you don't know where you're going until you're already half the way there.
Six Hundred to Graceland
The PCL. Austin and all things reconsidered.
Jared swallows down the dregs of his coffee, the room temperature, overly sweet last sip, and crunches a stray coffee ground between his teeth. Twenty more pages of reading for his physics class and he’ll allow himself another cup. If he pushes through to thirty and finishes the last problem set, he might even splurge on one of those flaky pastries with cream cheese in the middle. His system of rewards is a complex thing.
A headache made of too much caffeine already tingles at the back of his skull, and his concentration bangs around to everywhere it shouldn’t. He closes his eyes against the bright fluorescent lighting and lets his head sink down to the cool false-wood surface of the library cubbyhole, rocking a little in his unsteady chair. The study room is quiet except for the white noise of pages flipping and pens scratching against paper. An occasional cough or sniffle breaks through, the last gasps of a vicious virus that moved across campus a couple of weeks ago, spreading faster than bad news.
A chair scrapes across the carpet near him, and Jared opens his eyes just in time to see a map flung in his direction, covering his books and notebooks and knocking his empty coffee cup onto the floor. Jared blinks at the red and blue lines on the map, a twisted mass of highways and byways stretching across these United States, a big inky circle obscuring city names in the southwest corner of Tennessee.
“The pilgrimage,” Jensen starts without preamble, his voice pitched in a hoarse whisper that still earns him a few treacherous looks from people sitting at the surrounding tables and study nooks. He offers an apologetic smile to the offended parties as he straddles his chair. His knit hat is pulled down low, a dingy grey thing that Jared recognizes as his own and immediately gives up hope of ever getting back. With Jensen, possession is nine tenths of the law. Jensen’s bundled up against a winter that doesn’t particularly exist here in central Texas; his loosely looped scarf an eye-wrenching plaid that does nothing to soften the blow of his striped sweater. Laundry day has to be imminent. Either that, or this hipster thing that Jensen has had going on for the last few months is finally getting out of hand.
“Not really the best time.” Jared’s attempt at folding the map is thwarted when Jensen leans in close, tangles their arms together and shoves Jared’s textbooks into the far corner of the desk.
“Tell me what you think about Memphis,” Jensen says.
Jared takes a beat to think. “I can’t say that I’ve ever taken the time to form an opinion. Elvis or the ancient Egyptians?”
“The former,” Jensen says around a chuckle. “You’re a classics major, and the first thing you come up with is Elvis?” His elbow meets Jared’s ribs in gentle stab. “That’s exactly why I keep you around.”
“What happened to Vegas?” Jared asks. It’s become a tradition of sorts, three years running—a debaucherous few days over fall break: Jensen, Jared, Chris and Aldis jamming into Jensen’s car for the cross country trek through the desert, sneaking in and out of cheap hotel rooms and blowing off the steam that builds up during mid-terms.
“We’ve been there,” Jensen explains. “And it’s not like I mind the slutty pirate show, or flirting with cocktail waitresses while you play the penny slots for hours—“
“Don’t knock it,” Jared protests. “It costs a dollar and you can hit the button a hundred times. Besides, our drinks are free as long as I’m playing. I’m doing it solely for your benefit.”
Jensen continues, talking over him. “Just. It’s our last year, you know? We’re running out of time to do all the things we’ve always wanted to do.”
“It’s not like you get your diploma and subsequently fall down dead,” Jared states. “What about Chris and Aldis? Are they in?”
“They’re hell-bent on Vegas.”
The thought of the two of them alone for a handful of days, just him and Jensen, cheap diner food and the open road sends a thrill through Jared that he’s not quite ready to admit to anybody but himself. He knows the answer, has known the answer since the instant that Jensen brought it up. “I always have wanted to see Graceland,” Jared says.
Jensen’s answering grin is a beautiful thing. “Six hundred miles to Graceland. Know what that means?”
“A day there and a day back, a couple of days in between?”
“You’re always so logical.”
“Someone has to be.”
“It means,” Jensen starts, holding up a finger, “a new soundtrack is in order. I need CD’s. Laundry detergent, too. And a picnic basket.” He gathers the map and Jared’s books, dumping the whole mess into Jared’s backpack. Slinging it over his shoulder, he heads toward the door. Jared stares up at the ceiling for a second, fighting a losing battle against a smile of his own and shaking his head, then follows, catching up with Jensen as he pushes through the double doors.
“I want a cigarette.” Jensen says, walking past a cluster of folks smoking outside of the library. Jensen quit a week ago, and Jared thinks that this time it might actually stick. Dozens of packs of gum, uncountable pen caps, toothpicks and straws have taken the fall for the cause. Jensen shoves his thumbnail into his mouth and starts to chew. His fingernails are ragged, gnawed down almost to the quick.
Jared smacks at his hand. “You’re running low,” he says.
“Watch out,” Jensen warns, smacking him back. “Yours are next.”
Jared digs around in his deep jacket pockets, using it as an excuse to look away. The thought of his fingers in Jensen’s mouth tangles up his tongue and sends a jolt of heat across his chest. “You don’t know where my fingers have been,” Jared says, picking pocket lint off of the wrapper of a found lollipop. He hands it over.
“Yeah.” Jensen shrugs. “And you don’t know where my mouth has been. C’mon,” he urges, leading the way to the parking lot. “Provisions.”
Jared stays rooted to his particular patch of sidewalk, watches the easy roll of Jensen’s hips and the way he hunches his shoulders against the weight of Jared’s backpack. Three years, two months and seven days, give or take an hour or two, since Jensen stumbled out of Jared’s dorm room closet freshman year, a confused expression on his face and a bottle of Kahlua clutched protectively to his chest, and Jared keeps waiting for the shine to wear off. Three years of them riding shotgun on every one of each other’s wacked out schemes. Three years of late nights and early mornings, too much coffee and way too much beer. But just then Jensen turns, gives Jared his patented look of indulgent exasperation as he continues walking, only backward now, and yeah, the shine’s still there, stronger than ever. It’s not going anywhere.
Austin to Tyler. BB guns and Amazing Grace.
Jared wakes up to the slant of sunshine through his blinds and the optimistic smell of breakfast cooking. He shuffles down the narrow stairway, stiff-legged and yawning. Chris emerges from his bedroom, idly scratching his stomach through his thin t-shirt. Jared grunts at Chris, who grunts right back. “Is that Jensen?” Jared asks with a wave toward the kitchen. Jared hadn’t expected him to show up for a few hours, at least. He isn’t done packing yet, and sure to catch hell for that one.
“Think so,” Chris says.
“Call him whatever you want. Smells like he made coffee.”
Jared leans against the entrance to the small kitchen, arms and ankles crossed. Jensen’s back is to him, bent over a new road atlas spread open on the counter. Eggs and sausage sizzle happily on the stove beside him.
“Mornin’ sunshine,” Jensen says without turning around.
“How do you do that?”
“What, breakfast?” Jensen asks. “It’s not that hard.”
“You always know when I’m behind you,” Jared explains.
“Dunno. You’re big. You take up a lot of space. It’s easy. You’re packed?”
“Sorta,” Jared lies.
“Did you remember socks?” Jensen says, long suffering.
Jared sighs. “I thought that two years would be long enough for me to live that one down.”
“Two years? No way. I’m banking on twenty.” Jensen tips the pan of sausage into the pan of eggs, throws two pieces of toast on top of everything, sticks a fork in it and hands the whole shooting match over to Jared.
“How can you be so sure that we’ll even know each other twenty years from now?”
Jensen pauses, gives Jared a long, weighted look, and for a few heart beats there, Jared forgets to breathe. “I’m banking on that, too,” Jensen says, eyes widening like something just now surprised him. He clears his throat and fits his palm to the curve of Jared’s neck. With a small clap he says, “Eat. I don’t want to wake up in Texas tomorrow. I’ll finish packing for you.”
“Don’t forget my toothpaste,” Jared hollers to the retreating sound of Jensen’s footsteps.
“Aye aye, captain.”
Jared eats, listening to the creak of the floor above his head, mildly concerned that he’s not more alarmed with the idea of Jensen going through his stuff. Years back, Jensen had walked in on him at a Halloween party while he was on the receiving end of a very drunken blowjob from a guy in a sailor outfit, so Jensen knowing the state of Jared’s underwear drawer sorta pales in comparison.
Minutes later, Jensen stomps down the stairs, dumping Jared’s duffel and his backpack in front of the door.
“Socks?” Jared asks.
“How about that one pair of jeans? The ones with that paint stain--”
“Left those out for you to wear.” Jensen interrupts. “Want me to zip them up for you while we’re at it?”
“I think I got it covered.”
Austin grows tiny in their rear view mirror, and disappears entirely as they bicker. At first it’s about music and Jensen’s present and irrational fixation on rockabilly. Jensen wants to listen to the Asylum Street Spankers, an acoustic outfit from Austin, and Jared doesn’t want to touch the name of that band with a ten-foot pole. He makes a case for Uncle Tupelo, mellow and folksy and maybe a little country, a good match for the grassy brown plains that whir across the windshield. They compromise on the late greats of Sun Studio, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis. Jared has to admit that it does set a certain tone, after all.
Next up are sports, and they argue over stats and trades, baseball, basketball and soccer, but veer clear of football, because some things are sacred and not worth ruining a friendship over. They run into a stalemate in time for Jensen to tear apart the Magic Bullet Theory and for Jared to put it back together again. They both know that it’s not about who wins or who loses; it’s the argument that’s important.
Jensen knocks off the interstate and hits up the old highway 79 instead, and Jared lets his vision blur, follows the lines of tar patch-ups on the road, the map spread forgotten across his thighs, and his point-man duties ignored for the moment. He hums along to the song in a high-pitched, terribly off harmony and cranks down the window. Cool air blows his hair away from his face, but the sun still warms his skin. He reaches out the window lets the wind catch and pull at his hand and launches into an explanation of Bernoulli’s principle and why airplanes don’t fall from the sky.
Jensen rolls his window down as well, discarded receipts taking flight in the back seat. “You’re pretty well rounded, for a guy who spends all his time thinking about the ancient Greeks.”
“I think about a lot of things.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
Jared wants to say, ‘You, and specifically the shape of your mouth and how much I want to know how it would feel against mine,’ but bites the inside of his cheek and shrugs. “I think about the internal combustion engine.”
“Must be fascinating.”
“It really is.”
A sign riddled with pockmarks tells them they’re nearing Tyler. For a split-second the Texas comes out in Jared, and he wishes he had a BB gun. Buildings dot the sides of the roads with greater frequency, and far to the west Jared can see a stretch of long, low houses.
With a bitten-off curse, Jensen suddenly pulls off to the shoulder, gravel pinging along the undercarriage of the car. “I think I forgot something.” He hops out, circles to the back and throws open the trunk. By the time Jared makes it to his side, half the stuff is out of the trunk and Jensen’s slamming the lid on the picnic basket. For all that Jensen likes to fly by the seat of his pants, there are a few things that he takes a certain stubborn pride in, and efficiency of packing is one of them. Jensen opens up the picnic basket again, rolls his eyes when it’s still as empty as it was the first time.
“Toothpaste,” Jensen says the word like it’s the vilest curse in the English language. “I forgot it.”
Jared could point out that he specifically reminded him, but instead just says, “I’m pretty sure they still sell it outside the major cities.”
Jensen sneers at him. “I know. It just. It fucks with the inertia.”
Jared loads the trunk back up, and digs around in the front pocket of his backpack before letting the hood of the trunk fall closed. “Here. Have a lollipop.”
They wind up in one of those big box stores on the outskirts of Tyler, discussing the relative merits of communal toothpaste. A girl shares the aisle with them, pretty, with curvy hips and a short messy haircut, dyed an unlikely shade of dark red. She’s got holes in the knees of her jeans and a scarf that Jensen would steal given half the chance. She’s right up Jensen’s alley, and is listening in on their conversation with a quiet little smile and not bothering to hide it. Jared keeps sneaking looks in her direction, but Jensen seems to ignore her, and Jared’s not too sure what to think about that.
A squawk of feedback sounds from the front of the store and a voice follows soon after, singing along to the tinny sound of music. They dash to the head of the aisle and see a man standing near the front door. He’s decked out in the whole nine: a pressed, bright white shirt with fringe dripping down from the sleeves, a bolo tie set with turquoise, an enormous cowboy hat and snakeskin boots.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Jared says as the man moves into the second verse of Michael Row Your Boat Ashore.
“Gospel karaoke,” Jensen says, giggling behind his hand. “There was a reason I forgot the toothpaste.”
“Yeah,” Jared agrees. “This is providence.”
“Wonder if he wants to do a duet? Amazing Grace?”
“I bet you won’t.”
“I bet I will. How much is it worth to you?”
Jared considers. “A bar tab.”
Jensen’s expression lights up with mischief. “Looks like I’m drinking for free. C’mon, before he starts in on Cumbaya.”
“This I gotta see,” the girl says from behind him, and Jared grins at her.
Over the border. Crooked and straight and all debts are paid.
“Shoulda gone to Vegas,” Jared says, blinking at the bar tab on the table. It’s got an ironic smiley face drawn on it and a number that’s way too big to the left of the decimal point.
“What makes you say that?” Jensen asks.
“Drinks are free.”
“Arkadelphia,” Jensen muses, “a pretty grand name for a wide spot in the road.”
“Don’t knock it,” Jared tells him, weaving slightly atop the high bar stool. He licks barbecue sauce off of his fingers and washes it down with what might be his sixth or seventh, or fuck, maybe his tenth beer. He’s lost track. “It’s got the basics. Hotel, drugstore, this place.” Scanning the small, crowded bar, his sight gets snagged on a group of off-duty firefighters gathered around the single pool table in the corner. They’re good ol’ boys through and through, all crew cuts and badass attitudes. And whereas Jared doesn’t usually go for that sorta thing, he has to admit that there’s a certain amount of allure. “It’s got a firehouse.”
Jensen follows his line of sight, rolls his bottom lip between his thumb and first finger. “Uh-huh. Subtle.”
“Shut up,” Jared says.
Jensen hunches over the small round table, voice pitched low and hardly audible over the thump of country music piping out of the jukebox. His face carries a high flush, and his tongue darts out to touch the lip of the bottle before he takes a sip. “So when did you know?”
“You know.” Jensen makes a vague gesture toward the guys in the corner.
“Now who’s subtle?” Jared teases, but then turns serious, liquor loosening his tongue. “I was thirteen. Goddamn basketball camp. Co-ed. So fucking clichéd.”
“Crush on a camp counselor?” Jensen says, leaning heavily on his forearms, and there’s not even a hint of his usual taunting sarcasm.
“No,” Jared says as he pulls a face. “A girl kissed me. I mean. I knew before that, I think. It was all theoretical until I was fifteen and kissed a guy for the first time. Pretty much cinched the deal. And when I came out…” he trails off with a harsh laugh and wishes it didn’t sound so bitter.
“It didn’t go well?” Jensen’s expression has gone soft, skirting the edges of sympathy and something else that Jared can’t quite put his finger on.
“When you’re fifteen, everything feels like the end of the world. I lost some friends, made some new ones. Then I went to college. I was okay. I mean I am okay.” Jared leans back, pulls in a deep breath, dives into his wallet and leaves some money on the table. “It’s getting late. And maudlin. You ready?”
They stagger back to the hotel like the sidewalk is only half as wide as it really is, close together, shoulders and knuckles bumping. The lighted hotel sign reflects green on damp asphalt, lands on Jensen’s skin and turns it an eerie shade, makes his face paler and his glazed eyes incredibly bright. He’s snickering, muttering some bullshit about Tommyknockers that Jared doesn’t really get, but he laughs along anyway.
Their car is eclipsed by an RV, half a city block long and parked horizontally across three spots. Jared digs the keys out of Jensen’s jacket pocket and veers in that direction. There are painkillers stashed in the glove box, and even though he’s feeling great right now—awesome, in fact—it’ll be a different story come morning.
Jared drops the key before he can get it in the door. Bending over to pick it up turns into an intricate process, since the parking lot seems to have become an amusement park ride when he wasn’t paying attention, the solid ground tilting this way and that. When he stands up, he bumps into Jensen, who’s crowded in close beside him. “Hi?” Jared doesn’t mean it as a question, but that’s the way it comes out.
Jensen has the corner of his bottom lip trapped between his teeth and he’s intently staring at a spot on Jared’s hip. He puts his hand there, rubs a slow circle with his thumb and curls his fingers into the soft cotton of Jared’s shirt. A heady rush hits Jared and he lays a palm flat to the hood of the car to steady himself, the metal cold and almost clammy. The streetlights overhead double and blur overly bright as Jensen comes another half-step nearer.
Jared tries to school his thoughts, gather them together and shuffle them into a straight line, but then Jensen looks up at him, eyes narrowing in a way that’s curious and maybe a little scared, and goddamnit, but Jared loves him. Every little thing about him: his snark and his sarcasm, his stupid taste in music and far-fetched conspiracy theories, his mile-wide stubborn streak and his fierce, diehard loyalty.
He licks his lips, opens his mouth to say something—anything—to reestablish the status quo, but all he can manage is a small, pathetic noise when Jensen pushes in closer, rises up on the balls of his feet and kisses him. Jensen’s mouth is soft and dry, the kiss slow and lingering and almost innocent. Jared closes his eyes, keeps them that way. He wants to memorize every split second of this, how Jensen’s mouth slides and snags along his own, the clutch of Jensen’s hands on his hips and tangling in his shirt and the solid weight of Jensen’s chest against him.
Jensen backs away a fraction, his moist breath falling across Jared’s mouth. Jared refuses to open his eyes, doesn’t want to see the expression of mute shock or embarrassment that’s sure to be spreading across Jensen’s face. It comes as a surprise when Jared feels Jensen’s mouth covering his again, hotter and more insistent this time, Jensen’s tongue teasing at his lips and his hands moving up along the curve of Jared’s spine. Jensen shifts and slants them together just so, setting the kiss deeper, and Jared kisses back, secure in the surefire knowledge that this is the first, last and only time this will ever happen. Jared opens up; his chest hitches at the light touch of Jensen’s tongue against his and at the taste of him, all smoky barbecue and beer. He frames Jensen’s face with his hands and grounds himself, traces the shape of Jensen’s cheekbones and the place where their mouths meet. One last touch before gently pushing away, palm flat on the center of Jensen’s chest.
“Listen,” Jared says. Jesus Christ, he feels a little gutted, hot and cold all at once and Jensen’s mouth looks really fucking beautiful. So does the rest of him for that matter.
“Sorry,” Jensen says, scritching his hand through his hair. “I thought.” He fumbles around with his jacket, touches his bottom lip and Jared wonders if it tingles as much as his. “Fuck,” Jensen finishes on an exhale.
“It’s okay.” Jared’s tone is pleading, and right now he wishes that his moral code wasn’t such a strong one. “You’re straight. And you’re drunk. And I’m really drunk.”
“Straight,” Jensen mutters. “Never much liked that term.”
“Heterosexual is kinda a mouthful,” Jared points out.
“But if I’m straight, then what are you? Bent?” Jensen’s old familiar mirth is starting to creep back in and the weight that had settled in Jared’s stomach grows somewhat lighter.
“Bent doesn’t have the best connotation, does it?”
“My point exactly.” Jensen pauses on the verge of turning toward the hotel. “Is this gonna be weird in the morning?”
“It doesn’t have to be.”
Eureka Springs. A mortar Jesus, and two smart ladies.
“Now this thing’s just creepy.” Jensen has his head tipped backward, arms flung straight out to mirror the towering statue in front of him. “It looks like a giant milk carton with arms.”
“It says here that it’s seven stories tall. Made out of mortar.” Jared’s reading from a pamphlet he picked up at the visitor’s center, The Great Passion Play stamped brightly across the glossy paper.
Jensen sniffs. “Seems like a waste. Coulda stuck a lot of bricks together with that.”
“This was your idea,” Jared reminds him. The sunlight shining down on them is a vicious, terrible thing, piercing through Jared’s eyes on a collision course with the back of his skull. There’s this dry, cottony taste in his mouth that he just can’t shake and no amount of water will wash away, and a dull stiffness in his back courtesy of last night’s hotel mattress and four hours spent in the car going in the wrong direction. Jensen ruffles his hair, and smiles at him without a lick of awkwardness or embarrassment from the night before. Today is a good day.
“It’s not everyday that a man has a chance to see an eighty-foot tall statue of Jesus,” Jensen points out. “Besides, it’s free, and you can’t turn down free.”
Jared considers the statue’s blank expression, its skinny, out flung arms and its distinct lack of feet. He walks an apprehensive half circle around the base of it. “He follows you with his eyes,” Jared notes.
“See what I said? Creepy. Let’s go.”
“We drove four hours out of our way to stare at a statue for five minutes and get freaked out.”
"Yeah. If you wanna put it that way."
Highway 24 cuts through the center of town. Jared drives, windows rolled down, a cool fall breeze and the smell of wood smoke filling the car. Jensen sprawls comfortably in the passenger’s seat, and points out the names of the small ma and pa shops that stack up on either side of the road. A diner called Local Flavor, a clothing shop by the name of No Clothes, a token Indian food joint creatively called New Dehli on the Deck. Mud Café doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence. There are two pickup trucks for every one car; it’s that kinda town.
A life-sized statue of Elvis in full Vegas regalia stands in front of an antique consignment store, a faded, chipped ‘Peddlars Paradise’ painted across its façade. Jensen claps his hands, almost bouncing in the passenger seat.
“It’s an absolute convergence of coincidence,” Jensen states, adamant. “We have got to stop.”
“They spelled ‘peddler’ wrong.” Jared noses into a parking spot.
“But they have Elvis. That earns them a pass.”
The man behind the counter barely gives them a glance when they walk in. The place is bigger than it looks from the outside, an ant maze of small, antique-filled nooks with narrow passageways connecting them. If shining white, dead-eyed statues of Jesus freak Jensen out, then Jared thinks this does it for him. He feels like he’s walking through a graveyard and tells Jensen as much. “This is all just stuff we leave behind, you know?”
Jensen’s fingers still from paging through a box of old records. “Don’t think of it that way,” he says.
“One man’s trash is another one’s treasure, huh?”
“It’s more than that.” He takes a round candy dish from a shelf, rubs the dust off with the sleeve of his shirt and holds it up to the light. It’s carnival glass, a whorl of swirling kaleidoscope colors. “There’s a story behind everything. Someone loved this once. Maybe saved up for weeks or months to get it. Or maybe it was a gift, I don’t know. It made someone smile. And now it’s here, just waiting to make someone else happy.”
They wander further into the maze, Jared following Jensen’s lead as he turns into a magpie, zeroing in on polished brass candlesticks and heavy glass paperweights. He gets distracted by a wall filled with rusty tin plaques, advertising Coke and cigarettes and long forgotten gas stations, and loses track of Jensen.
He ambles into another booth. A small trunk is propped open in the corner, piled to the brim with old keys, a million different shapes and sizes. They clink together as he dips his hand in and he lets them fall from his palm one by one, wondering what each one unlocks.
Jared recognizes the shuffle of Jensen’s footsteps without glancing back. “You’re right,” he starts. “About the stories.”
Jensen’s hand falls on his shoulder, lightly tugs at him to turn around. His jaw is set at a stubborn angle, like he’s made some decision while Jared wasn’t looking. Jensen fits his palm along the back of Jared’s neck, pulls him down and kisses him. It’s different from last night. Much more sober for one, determined and sure and so, so good. Jensen sucks at Jared’s lip, gives him a small graze of teeth like a punctuation mark and takes a step back.
“There are a couple of things you should know about me,” Jensen tells him in a rush of words. “I wasn’t all that drunk last night, and I’m not all that straight.”
Jared finds himself stammering, head somewhere near the ceiling and his heart banging against his ribcage. “Then what are you?”
Jensen takes a second to think it through, then offers Jared a shy smile. “Not bent, I don’t think. Let’s call it crooked. And I’m absolutely crazy about you.”
“Thank god,” Jared says, and kisses him back.
A candy shop takes up residence beside the antique store. The sign on the door reads ‘Two Dumb Dames,’ and the thick smell of sugar makes Jared’s mouth water and his stomach grumble. It’s a sweet tooth’s paradise, glass cases filled with homemade candies forming a horseshoe in the small space, chocolate and pralines, shelves upon shelves of fudge and every confection imaginable. A rainbow colored tree of lollipops stands brightly in the center of the store, and that’s a good thing. Jensen had been running low.
Jared can’t keep his eyes off of him and can’t wipe the moonstruck expression off of his face no matter how hard he tries. It’s as if something has finally broken free, and now Jensen doesn’t know how to quit touching him, pressing his hand to the small of Jared’s back and rubbing his knuckles against his hip and calling his attention with a pull of his elbow. It should feel new and strange, but somehow it doesn’t. This thing might only be less than an hour old, but it was years in the making.
Two women stand behind the counter, sisters by the look of them, iron-grey hair pulled back in matching ponytails, and their posture speaks of years and years of living in each other’s space. They’re tipped close together and share the same smile, that wistful sort of thing that older women get in the face of young love.
With a fistful of lollipops, Jared walks up to the counter while Jensen turns his attention to the opposite side of the store.
“What brings you to Eureka Springs?” the taller of the sisters asks as she bags him up.
“A detour,” Jared says. He hitches his thumb over his shoulder. “He wanted to see Jesus.”
The woman laughs, a deep, rich sound. “That thing’s creepy.” She looks between the two of them and leans across the counter. “Mind if I offer a bit of advice?”
Genuinely curious, Jared says, “Go ahead.”
“The way you feel right now? Don’t you ever forget it.”
“No, ma’am. Don’t think I will.”
Bruce Springsteen and busted bridges: the eastern half of Arkansas.
“Shoulda gone to Vegas,” Jared says, flipping off the overhead light and shifting in the passenger seat.
“Shut up.” Jensen scowls at the brake lights on the car in front of them, cuts the engine and wipes a hand in front of his face.
In the distance, Jared can see the vague shape of a drawbridge. The bridge is up and has been for the last half an hour. Either they’re letting through a full fleet or the thing is busted, and since Arkansas is a land locked state, Jared’s putting his money on the latter.
Jensen can’t stand traffic and he’s gone twitchy with it, scrubbing his hands through his hair, screwing around with the radio, and flipping through the pages of the road atlas.
“If we circle back it’ll take us a few hours to hit the interstate, then it’s south on this dinky state road. Either that, or we need to go back to Little Rock. Or we could wait and see what’s what.”
Jensen grunts. “You’re saying it’s a zero sum game.”
Jared dozes for a while, head against the hard surface of the window and legs cocked awkwardly in the foot well, rousing when the car creeps up a couple of times, but it’s basically just wishful thinking on Jensen’s part.
The sun is far below the horizon when Jared comes more fully awake. The bridge is definitely busted and Bruce Springsteen’s on the radio, volume down low. Jensen’s singing along, quiet and hoarse, gravel in his voice. His hand rests high on Jared’s thigh, his fingernails running along the weave of his jeans. Jared places his hand over Jensen’s, matches their fingers together for a second then stretches. His hair falls into his face and Jensen reaches over, tucks it behind his ear and freezes. “Am I allowed to do that?” he asks. “I’ve never…it’s just that you’re a guy and I. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.”
Jared takes Jensen’s hand and kisses his palm. He’s never been one for grand gestures and heartfelt confessions, but it’s late and he’s tired. They’re so very far away from home and it’s Jensen. “I’m yours,” he says, plain and simple and just like that. “You can do whatever you want.”
Jensen opens his mouth like he’s about to speak, his throat working mutely, but then he buries his fingers in Jared’s hair instead. He holds him tight and keeps him there, his lips working along the skin on Jared’s neck, moving up and up until he finds Jared’s mouth and kisses him. Wide open and wet, hot and wanting until Jared runs out of air to breathe.
Small noises come from the back of Jensen’s throat. They make Jared squirm and he wraps an arm around Jensen’s shoulders, awkward and the angle is terrible. When Jensen drops a hand to the inside of Jared’s thigh, he jumps, back arching against the seat. Jared’s already hard, restricted and frustrated, wanting Jensen so badly he can taste it. “Turn around,” he says, speaking against Jensen’s mouth. “Take the loss.”
“We passed that motel about an hour back.”
Jared fumbles with the key card, fingers shaking. Jensen’s not making it any easier, pressed against Jared’s back the way he is, his mouth wandering along Jared’s neck and his hips snugged up tight against Jared’s ass. He sticks the plastic card back in the lock, pulls it out fast, snarls at the blinking red light and tries it again, slower this time.
Jensen snatches it from his hand and takes over. The fucker gets it on the first try.
They topple into the room, tripping over their bags and each other. Jared tries to rip Jensen’s shirt over his head, Jensen tries to help, and they tangle themselves together, settling into a ridiculous and ill-timed fit of laughter. It only gets worse as Jared nips and sucks at Jensen’s throat, finding out exactly how ticklish Jensen is there.
Jensen walks backward and sits down hard on the bed, his expression dark and heated as he watches Jared make quick work of his belt and his jeans, Jensen canting his hips to help Jared ease his own off. He steers Jared closer, pulls him to stand between his spread thighs. The muscles in Jared’s stomach jump as Jensen kisses him there, snakes his tongue out to lick right below his belly button. Jared’s hard, has been for about an hour, aching and sticky, and can’t help how his hips move in a sharp thrust when Jensen traces the shape of his cock through his shorts.
“I want to—“ Jensen cuts off. “How are we—holy shit, you’re beautiful.”
“It’s okay,” Jared assures him, toppling Jensen backward and crawling along his body until he straddles Jensen’s hips. He can feel the jut of Jensen’s cock against his ass and it’s electrifying, makes his heart beat double time and his skin prickle all over with heat. “It’s easy. I’ll talk you through it.” Their mouths meet again and Jared rolls his hips slow, almost loses it altogether as Jensen shoves his hands down his boxers, grabs handfuls of his ass and squeezes hard. Jared breaks the kiss with a harsh laugh. “See? You’re a quick study.”
Jensen raises his knees, braces Jared in his lap, drives his hips upward and groans. “God, Jared.”
The sound of his name, the purr of it so deep and rough, makes Jared wild and he bears down harder. He needs Jensen closer, wants to know the feeling of Jensen inside of him. Needs it more than anything. After one more short kiss, he rolls off of the bed, has trouble tearing his eyes away from the gentle dip of Jensen’s stomach, the ridge of his cock and the damp patch blooming on the front of his shorts. He digs into his backpack, finds a condom and lube and places them on Jensen’s chest. Jensen sits up, turning the flat foil of the condom over in the palm of his hand, like he's forgotten what to do with it. His hand shakes a little and he searches Jared's face.
"Too fast?" Jared says, half question and half statement.
"No. Not too fast." Jensen swallows hard, licks his lips, leaves them shiny and wet and Jared just wants to kiss him again.
“One finger at a time,” Jared says as he goes to his knees on the bed, thighs spread wide and his head resting on his forearms. “I’ll tell you when I’m ready.”
“Is it gonna hurt?” Jensen asks, and Jared looks back at him. His tone is cautious but his pupils are blown dark and there’s a flush spreading down his neck and across his chest.
“It’ll be fine.”
Jensen goes slow, teases him open, uses too much slick and makes a mess of Jared, lube dripping down and trickling along the inside of his thighs. He never stops kissing Jared, mouthing at his back and licking into the dip of his spine, his free hand restless and kneading the muscles of Jared’s shoulders. By the time he’s added a second finger and finally a third, Jared’s sweaty, moving against his hand, begging and pleading and talking nonsense.
Jared flips over and hooks his ankles around the backs of Jensen’s knees. His cock throbs, grows impossibly harder and heavy against his stomach. “Now, please,” he pants. “I’m great, fuck. I’m fucking great.”
It’s breathtaking, the sight of Jensen hovering above him, arms shaking slightly with the effort of holding himself up. Jared circles Jensen’s cock in the loose ring of his fingers and guides him in, grits his teeth and sets his jaw against the slow stretch of it. He buries his face in the crook of Jensen’s neck and rides it out.
“You smell so good,” he says, and Jensen’s hips jump in response, slamming in deeper and punching all the breath out of Jared’s lungs. It’s sudden and it burns and it’s the best thing Jared’s ever felt. A wave of pure pleasure buries the sting a second later when Jensen shifts a little, hips working in a small thrust. “Fuck yeah,” Jared says. “Whatever it was, just. Do that again.”
Jensen pulls out almost all the way, then right back in with a strong, steady slide, breath hissing through his teeth. Jared wraps his legs around Jensen’s back, heels bumping into the back of Jensen’s thighs and helps him set a rhythm, arching off of the bed over and over, mindlessly lost to the constant drag of Jensen’s cock against his rim, the steady push and pull and the overwhelming heat of it all.
Jensen starts cursing softly, his hair darkened with sweat and standing up in messy spikes. He clutches at Jared’s shoulders with a vice-like grip and dips down to kiss him, tongue slicking sloppy against Jared's in a slide that matches the motion of his hips. He moans into Jared’s mouth, bites down hard on Jared’s lip and that’s it. Jared comes, spattering the space between them in hot, sticky streaks and clenching down hard around Jensen.
“Fuck,” Jensen says, slamming in deeper and bottoming out, their skin coming together with a stinging slap. He collapses on Jared like he’s trying to figure out a way to get even further inside of him, his rhythm now lost to tiny, shivering thrusts as he shudders through his own orgasm.
Snaking his arms around Jensen, Jared holds on tight, trying to breathe through the aftershocks. Jensen places his lips to the hollow of Jared throat, hips still working in tiny circles and jerks, then props his chin on Jared’s chest, his eyes muzzy and half-lidded. When Jensen speaks, it's fragmented. "God Jared. I never. Not too fast. Right on time."
Jensen smiles at him, sleepy and content. He tucks Jared’s hair behind his ears, just because he can.
The Mississippi. Memphis and all things reconsidered (again).
Over Jensen’s shoulder, Jared can see the very tip of the Memphis pyramid. The land rises at a steep angle behind them, leading up to the city proper, and the ground beneath them is loose, a little sandy. If Jared cocks his head in a certain direction and squints, he can see the high water mark from the last time the river overflowed it’s boundaries.
It’s not quiet. There’s the constant drone of tires moving across pavement, the hollow thunder of traffic travelling over the bridge that will take them back to Arkansas and all points westward. The noise echoes, bounces between the sluggish current of the river and the metal girders of the bridge.
Jared fingers a small hole in the quilt they’ve got spread beneath them. It’s an old thing, softer than silk, made of patchwork browns and dark reds, taken from Jensen’s bed back home. Well worn and well traveled. Jensen’s mapping out their trajectory for the day; plans on taking Graceland, Sun Studio and Beale Street by storm. He spreads convenience store sandwiches and leftover bread pudding out in front of them, and finally the picnic basket makes sense.
Jensen pulls his knees up to his chest and leans into Jared. “I understand it now,” Jensen starts. “I had this teacher in junior high. Or maybe high school. We were reading Huck Finn and he told us that the Mississippi was Mark Twain’s muse. I thought it was ridiculous at the time. I mean. A river? Really?” He puts his mouth to Jared’s shoulder and kisses it through his shirt, and Jared is struck by the ease of it, how the feeling of Jensen pressing in along his side fills his heart up three times too much, far beyond capacity and in danger of spilling over. Jensen squints across the muddy brown surface of the water and picks up his train of thought. “But it’s not just about the river is it?”
The question’s rhetorical, but Jared answers anyway. “It’s about the possibility of the river.”
Jensen nods and says, “Six hundred to Austin. Know what that means?”
“We’re half-way home,” Jared says.
“You get it.” Jensen looks at him and smiles in a particular way, the sun shining down on him and filling in the shallow laugh lines that branch from the corners of his eyes. In that instant, Jared realizes that he’s been waiting his whole life for someone to look at him exactly like this. “Still wish you’d gone to Vegas?”
“Not even a little.”
Thanks for reading.