Genre: Jared/Jensen RPS AU
Word Count: ~3,000 this part
Disclaimer: Nope, not true, nope not mine, yup, still broke.
Summary: When Jared's best friend, Jensen - who he's had a crush on for years - tells him he is going to get married, he leaves everything behind and runs away to Europe. When Jared returns five years later for his father's funeral, Jared discovers that leaving the past behind isn't as easy as he'd thought.
Link to Masterpost
The Road to Where You Are ~ Chapter 2
The suit that he was wearing was ill fitting, and Jared pulled at the uncomfortable tie around his neck. The jacket and shirt both felt too small across his shoulders, its sleeves too tight, a bit too short, and the waistband of the dress pants bunched a little under the belt he was wearing. His one set of dress clothes, hastily pulled out of a box the evening before, spoke mutely of the fact that in the last five years he had grown more muscular while at the same time more slender.
Jared gave up trying to make the tie more comfortable, dropped his hand and watched the play of light across the back of it as it rested on his knee. The light was multi-colored where it shone through the tall, ornate stained-glass windows of the church, mesmerizing him. His joints popped slightly as he arched his back, trying to ease the ache there.
Jared had sat there for what felt like hours, uncomfortable in his clothes and uncomfortable in his skin, fighting feelings of regret over the time lost with his father, an arm curled supportively around his mother’s thin shoulders as she bravely faced the world.
Perhaps it was some sort of shock, but Jared felt this odd sort of disconnectedness. It was as if none of this was real, as if his father would come walking through the doors of the church any moment, asking what all the fuss was about. It seemed like the sort of thing he would do.
The announcement that the family was hosting a gathering for relatives and friends at their home was the signal for everyone to exit.
Jared was thankful that this part of the prescribed ritual of saying goodbye to a loved one was over. The memorial service had been lovely with many of his father’s friends and colleagues sharing wonderful memories and funny stories of his time spent amongst them. He felt a little embarrassed that he had not gotten up to deliver a eulogy of his own. But sometimes saying goodbye was a private thing and sometimes it was easier to not say goodbye at all.
As Jared turned to leave, his eyes landed on something that made his breath catch in his chest, his throat seize up and become instantly bone-dry. There was a sudden burst of adrenaline that kicked his heartbeat into overdrive, made his legs weak and hands tremble slightly, shooting through the numbness that he’d been feeling since he’d returned home.
A figure was silhouetted in the open doorway of the church, his form a little shadowy against the bright, early afternoon sunlight. His back was turned to Jared, his head bowed slightly. Broad, strong shoulders that tapered down to a slim waist. Spiked dirty-blonde hair cropped a little shorter than five years ago. A slightly awkward, bowlegged gait that was instantly recognizable.
Jared felt the world turn sideways around him. He placed a hand on the pew beside him to steady himself and wondered vaguely how everyone was managing to not fall down.
His time spent away was supposed to have taken his feelings for Jensen and turned them into something manageable. Like the bits of his broken heart had been pieced back together with string and tape. He thought that time had more or less cured him of his love for Jensen, or at least cured him of that biting and immediate feeling he’d always gotten whenever the man came into his sight. The lasting feeling was supposed to have been reduced to something like an old arthritic injury, one that rarely hurt and could mostly be ignored, a sort of dull ache that only ever really came back full force whenever it rained. Right now Jared felt like it was raining buckets.
He was suddenly stuck between the urge to rush to him, grab him and never let go or run the other way, grab the ticket that was at home in his drawer and keep on running.
A hand landed on his back, causing Jared to jump, a small gasp escaping his lips. “You alright, Jared?” It was his mother.
Turning to her he nodded an affirmative, not quite yet trusting his voice.
“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
Ungluing his tongue from the roof of his mouth he responded with a shaky voice, “I think that I just did.”
Jared moved through the crowded living room at his mother’s house. Each time the door opened he felt a rush of anxiety hoping that it wouldn’t be Jensen but wishing that it would be.
Highly aware of all of the surreptitious sidelong glances aimed in his direction, he avoided making eye contact with his family and their friends. Repetitive whispers floated into his hearing, snatches of hissed conversations amongst his family, these people who were supposed to love him unconditionally. Five years…he just got back yesterday…five years…gone…five years…he left them behind…He supposed that he had betrayed them somehow and was now fully discovering that betrayal had a tendency to run down a two-way street. What was worse it reminded him of similar family functions. Only back then the whispers were for a whole other reason.
And back then Jensen had always been there with him, forming a sort of force field between Jared and his family. He had always been there with a sure smile, an elbow bumping into his side and the inevitable joke that would never fail to make everything better, or if not better, at least tolerable.
Spotting a clear path through the dining room, Jared quickly made his way to the doors that led to the open side-porch. It was blessedly empty. He shucked his jacket and tie, hanging them over the railing, and sat down heavily on the stairs that led to the yard.
Intellectually Jared had known that Jensen would make an appearance at the funeral. His father had been a large part of both of their lives, always trusted to give sage advice on car buying, house buying or even something as simple as the right tool to get a job done. Somewhere in the back of his mind Jared knew he was going to have to face him sooner or later, it was somehow inevitable.But when he had caught a glimpse of Jensen in the church it still felt so unexpected and the sight had sent him into an out-of-control tailspin, one that was still making him dizzy.
Jared heard the sound of dry grass crunching under approaching footsteps, stifled a groan and refused to look up, hoping that if he buried his hands in his face then whoever it was would leave him alone. It was childish…like burying his head in the sand. He knew that, but right now he felt nauseated and headachy. His eyes burned and he was so very tired.
“Mind some company?” A voice in front of him said, a voice that Jared had longed to hear for longer than he was willing to admit. It was a voice that he had hoped to never have to hear again.
Jared dragged his eyes upward, saw himself reflected in the lenses of Jensen’s sunglasses before looking away quickly. In that moment he was struck with the absolute certainty that he was never going to love anyone the way that he loved Jensen. Never. It simply was not possible.
“So? Do you mind?” Jensen repeated, waving a hand to the empty space on the wooden stair beside Jared.
Jared straightened up slightly, dropped his hands to dangle between his knees. He raised his eyes again and squinted against the light to stare at Jensen. Somewhere between the church and the house Jensen had ditched the jacket and dress shirt that he had worn and replaced his dress shoes with an old pair of blown-out flip-flops. Jensen always had hated to dress up and always had hated shoes. In the midst of all else Jared was thankful that some things never changed.
Jared found himself unable to respond to Jensen’s question, sliding just a little further toward the railing to make more room for him to sit.
Jensen landed heavily next to him, a slight brush of their knees as he sat, their hips and shoulders mere inches away from each other. Jared felt the firm, comforting pressure of Jensen’s hand on the center of his back, bringing a thrill and a shudder to his body that he hoped was hidden beneath the thin fabric of his shirt. He leaned backward into the familiar touch for a heartbeat, came to his senses and leaned forward quickly, breaking contact.
Jensen retracted his hand, rubbed it through his hair for a second before placing it on the stair between them. “Listen, man. I am so sorry. Your dad, he was a great guy. One of those guys who just knew how to do everything, you know? He could fix the faucet with the drip for you while discussing Aristotle. People like that are rare.”
“I know and they are getting even rarer.” Jared replied, his voice growing thick, his eyes stinging. Now that Jensen was beside him, all the barriers that he had erected over the last five years were starting to come down, bit by bit.
“It’s so hard to believe,” Jensen continued. “Just a couple of weeks ago when he was over at the house he helped me replace the brakes on the truck. And then we…” Jensen cut off when Jared directed a sharp look his way. “You probably don’t want to hear about that, sorry.”
“No, it’s alright, really. I’m glad that he had you. That he still had at least one son around. He loved you. I know he did.” Jared blinked his watery eyes, dragged a hand across them.
Jensen just nodded, stared across the yard at nothing for long moments.
“So? You’ve been a tourist for the last five years?” Jensen said, changing the topic abruptly. It was an obvious attempt to fill what felt like an uncomfortable silence between them. Jared sharply felt the loss of a relationship that had once been so close that the word ‘uncomfortable’ would have not even entered its stratosphere. At the same time Jensen was inching toward a topic that Jared absolutely did not want to discuss. There was an eight-hundred-pound gorilla on the porch and they both knew it.
“No. I’ve been a traveler,” Jared responded, a little annoyed. “There’s a difference. A traveler doesn’t know where he’s going, a tourist doesn’t know where he’s been.” Jared quoted.
“Point taken,” Jensen said, his voice growing increasingly guarded.
“How’s the family?” Jared asked after a moment, changing the subject. His question was left deliberately open-ended and vague.
“The same. You know nothing much ever changes around here.” Jensen answered with a shrug.
“I’m starting to figure that out.” Jared replied, feeling like he could not get control of his traitorous tongue and biting remarks.
This conversation was not going right and Jared knew it. It felt like an awkward exchange between old high school friends whose life had gone two completely different directions. Between two people, almost but not quite strangers, who now only saw each other at weddings or at funerals. The only commonality that they had ever shared was something of the past. Time and distance had turned them into mere acquaintances, nothing more.
But really, what did he expect? Jared knew now that one of his problems had always been an irrational belief in fairy-tale endings.Endings that would see him and Jensen reunited, riding off into the sunset, white picket fences trailing behind them. Well, it was time for him to grow up, get over his make-believe world and join the real world for a while.
“Listen, sorry. I’m going to blame it on the jet lag.” Jared said, scrubbing a hand across his eyes again. “Right now it feels like it’s…you know, I ‘m not even sure what day it feels like, much less what time it feels like. So, can we possibly just start over?”
Jensen leveled a smile in his direction and Jared felt like Heaven had just come down to Earth. He tucked the image of that smile safely in a corner in his mind. It would be a memory to hold onto when he resumed his travels, an image that could get him through the next thousand lonely nights.
“There’s food in there.” Jared said, hiking a thumb over his shoulder toward the house.
“That’s my boy, still thinking with his stomach.” Jensen’s smile grew broader and he bumped shoulders with Jared. “I guess some things never do change.”
“You sure are right about that.” Jared stated, ignoring the quizzical look from the man sitting beside him.
“Where was the last place you went?” Jensen asked, still trying to fill in the awkward gaps in conversation.
“Rome,” Jared answered. “I was in Rome when I got the message from my sister. There was this thunderstorm and I was about to go into the Pantheon. You know it has the oculus, the hole in the dome that allows the elements to come in and the drains in the floor for when it rains. I really wanted to be inside when it began to storm. It seemed the right way to, I don’t know, to experience it.Experience it the way that it was meant to be. But then I heard from my sister and I made it here as fast as I could, so…” He left the thought unfinished.
“Are you going to be living here for a while? Or looking for your own place right away?” Jensen asked.
Jared figured that it would be Jensen who would start with the tough questions. For so long he had walked a fine line between lies and truth with this man. Their friendship had always been so honest, everything else, not so much. This could very well be the last time he saw Jensen and he made a conscious decision not to lie, not about anything.
“I have a plane ticket.” Jared’s voice was monotone.
“What? To where?”
“Back overseas. As soon as everything here is settled, I’m heading back…maybe in a couple of weeks, maybe sooner. I don’t know yet.”
“What? You’re just going to pack up and leave again?” The hurt and confusion clear in his voice.
“You don’t understand. There’s no home here for me. Everyone looks at me like I am some sort of outsider. And I probably am. I probably always have been, never really a part of anything.” Jared went on, knowing full well that he was going too far, getting too close to the something he didn’t want to say and wishing that he could stop. “And I can’t stay here surrounded by all of the things that remind me of the past, fill my life with wishes of things that can never be and see you every day or once a week, or whatever and know that you now have a life that no longer includes me. It’s easier to just leave. And right now I’m all for taking the easy way out.” Jared stopped quickly, the shock over what he had just allowed himself to say descending heavily upon him. Maybe he would be leaving sooner than he’d originally thought.
“Well, it must be so nice to have that luxury. To be able to just take off and leave everyone else here to clean up all the messes you leave behind, just waiting and counting the days that you’ve been gone.” Jensen’s voice portrayed ill-concealed anger and a note of desperation, Jared thought. And then Jensen was up and moving, heading across the yard toward the front of the house at a rapid walk, his head bowed, hands jammed deep into his pockets.
“Give my regards to your lovely wife.” Jared yelled after him, sarcastic and biting. He couldn’t help himself.
Jensen turned to look at him with his head tilted slightly, the corner of his lower lip trapped between his teeth, his eyes narrowed and pensive. “Of course you wouldn’t know, how could you? You’ve been gone so long,” he said finally, his tone thoughtful. “I never did it. I never asked her.”
“Really?” Jared said, all anger suddenly gone. It was replaced by a momentary burst of relief over the revelation, immediately sobered by a twinge of sadness for his friend and then topped with a healthy dose of guilt.
“No, I couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t have been fair to her, or to me, or to anyone, really.”
“Because I’m…well, let’s just say that my heart really wasn’t in it. Anything else would have been a lie. See ya around, Jared. Or maybe I won’t. Probably. I don’t know.” Jensen quickly turned and without another glance or another word he disappeared around the corner of the house.
Jared stared for long seconds at the space where Jensen had stood moments ago. He jumped when he heard the slam of Jensen’s car door.
His feet were starting to itch. They wanted to hit the road. Jared thought that perhaps he’d go back to Rome, take up where he left off. Maybe he would finally get to see the Pantheon. He’d always wanted to see it.
It seemed just the thing to do.