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28 July 2010 @ 10:17 pm
The Ramblers, Part Two, mijmeraar.  
Part One.

Part Two.

The boys are huddled around Jensen’s dining room table; an old six seater he picked up off the side of the road, another has-been. Jensen’s apartment is mostly a collection of has-beens; random shit he’s found, bought for five dollars, or inherited. It’s a decorator’s worst nightmare: nothing matches save the cutlery his mom gave him for his twenty first, still in the box, sidelined for the more favourable, plastic variety. It means the old wash, rinse and dry tradition is instead lift bin lid, throw out cutlery, close bin lid.

“This shit is all very … quaint, Ackles,” Chris says, popping the cap off his bottle of beer. Steve’s dealing cards, Wayne’s not-so-subtly stealing glances at Matt’s hand and Kenny’s writing song lyrics on the back of his band mate Troy’s white tee. “But you live in a fucking shack. Why aren’t we at Matty’s?”

Matt shoots Jensen a look, the look, and Jensen just chugs on his beer.

“You mean, why aren’t we at Wayne’s?” Wayne says, feigning hurt. The guys a douche bag but he’s astute when he wants to be, turning everyone’s attention.

“Dude.” Kenny caps his marker. “I thought you lived in like, an orphanage.”

There’s a wave of laughter but Wayne shrugs, bottom lip out. “We sleep on the floor, we dress in rags and we’re always hungry. I guess you could say that.”

“I swear to God if one of you starts singing Tomorrow, I’m kicking you out.” Jensen groans, picks up his cards and groans again. Poker Face was never something he mastered.

“You don’t know about The Ramblers, but you know Annie?” Steve teases.

“Us fags love musical theatre.”

“What’s The Ramblers?” Troy asks, biting his nails as he assesses his cards.

Jensen motions to him with a sharp jab of an arm. “Thank you.”

“Is this about that actor kid you didn’t fuck?” Matt has an arm thrown around the back of Jensen’s chair. He’s slouched low, his syllables are stretched long; a mix of booze and indifference. He can’t bring himself to care about much, lately.

“Just think about that sentence.”

“What’s The Ramblers?” Troy repeats, an edge of annoyance in his voice now. Kenny pulls a pouting face and tickles at his friend’s ear, teasing.

“It’s fuckin’ Casablanca,” Chris snaps, discarding. “Can we get on with the game now?”

“He’s just angry he’s not with his girl,” Steve says flippantly, seizing the deck and moving on. Chris doesn’t bother to look at Steve, just flips him the bird and says,

“How about shut the fuck up?” in that hard-done-by tone he’s always using. They’re the Mom and Dad of Jensen’s Cali life; the cliché, ever-bickering married couple.

“What girl?” Jensen demands.

“You know, that little feminino who’s always hanging around. Alegra.”

Jensen can hardly believe it. For ten years it’s only ever been love songs – fairytales - wanking on about women who will never exist. Jensen’s friends, they’re like Mr. Men; they’re predictable. Chris is Mr. Player, with girls on the side and out of the way. He’s got things to do. “Chris? You’ve got a girlfriend?”

“I know a girl and her name’s Alegra.” It’s starting to sound like a love song, to Jensen. “What of it?”

“Speaking of girls,” Kenny butts in, resting an elbow on the table and leaning toward Jensen. “How’s your sister doing, dude?”

There’s laughter, and Wayne wolf whistles. Jensen’s voice is firm. “Keep it in your pants, Romeo.”

“Aw, we had a thing,” Kenny says proudly, grinning. When Jensen tenses, colour flooding to his face and teeth gritted, Kenny’s smile quickly falls. Mackenzie may be of legal age, but Jensen doesn’t want to know that shit. He doesn’t want to believe it of her. She’s still 10, to him. Pigtails, and a bubblegum splattered face.

A thing?”

“Well, I don’t mean,” he splutters, back track, back track. “It was a shared sort of … thing.”

“You shared your thing with Jensen’s sister!?” Wayne cries, mock outrage, getting to his feet and slamming a fist against the table.

“Alright, alright,” Matt says, over the hubbub, a faint smirk on his face. He knows Jensen’s buttons, and he knows they’re being jabbed at, so he moves them all along. “Who can open?”

It’s a quiet, easy night, the kind Jensen prefers. Needless to say, he prefers it a lot better than watching Matt shuffle around the house muttering under his breath. Words not unlike ‘Jillian’ and ‘crazy’. In Jensen’s humble opinion, they’re both completely insane, and he’s pretty sure an elephant seal would agree with him.

When the pizza guy arrives Wayne grabs the end of the table and tips it up; cards and coins and chips all falling to the floor with a rumble. Jensen fixes him a look that says you’re cleaning that shit up, and makes him wait until last to get his food. It’s like training a Labrador, only Wayne’s more like a mongrel he picked up off the street. Steve and Chris sit away from them, on the couch, Chris chastising Steve under his breath. Jensen hears the name Alegra.

“So, uh, Jensen.” Kenny sits cautiously beside Jensen at the table, keeping plenty of distance between them. An escape route. “I was wondering if we could … employ your services?”

“His or his sisters?” Wayne says in a cough and Matt smacks him upside the head. Jensen keeps his fists to himself, picking up his half eaten slice of pizza.

“You mean photos?”

“Yeah, dude. Of Jungle Gym. We’ve got this sweet ass gig next month, at this little club on Hyde. Only, no-one knows we exist so we thought we’d better start that whole PA thing.”

“You mean PR?”

“Right, whatever.” When Jensen sets him with a doubtful look, Kenny quickly adds, “We can pay you! Well, my mom can pay you.”

“Okay.” The piece of pizza’s down, Jensen’s wiping his hands on a napkin and using his Professional Voice. Serious business. “How about we make a deal?”

“Uh, yeah.” Kenny blinks. “I mean, I don’t do drugs but I could hook you up if - ”

Jensen waves a hand at him, to shut him up. “I’ll take your photos, free of charge, if you never look at my sister again. Fair enough?”

“Dude, yes, sweet. I mean, don’t stress about your sister, she was nothing special. I mean-”

“Uh, speaking of clubs,” Matt says, trying to save Kenny from Jensen’s wrath. From guaranteed internal bleeding. “That new one’s opening up this weekend, that uh, Vive? Wayne thinks we should go and check it out.”

“Huh?” Wayne says with a mouthful of pizza, little bits splattering across the table.

“You know, the club,” Matt repeats, big eyes and dramatic nod of his head. “You said you had that friend, who was going to be there.”

“Oh, right, the club. The friend.”

Jensen looks between them both, completely nonplussed. “Why do I feel like I’m in the middle of a pantomime?”

“Dude, I love those fuckers. Great band.”

*


*

If you love San Francisco in the daylight, open, welcome and anything’s possible; you won’t know what hit you when night rolls around. It’s like a buzz under your skin, a recharger. The bright lights, the noise, bumping into someone who isn’t angry at the 9 to 5 world; who’ll stop and ask you how you are rather than call you an asshole. Strangers smiling, shaking hands, and getting drunk together. It’s easy living, and Jensen loves the easy life.

There’s nothing altogether special about Vive. It’s just another club with a gaudy neon sign, girls lined up, with little to no clothes on, waiting for a nod. Inside it’s Usher, or something equally bad, but Matt’s buying drinks so Jensen can’t complain. The bar spreads right along the back wall, behind the dance floor, and the dance floor’s bordered with leather booths. Wayne disappears amongst the crowds and Jensen heads over to an empty table. Matt brings booze.

“Where’d Wayne go?”

“To piss?” Matt replies, shrugging.

“You sure you want to be out tonight?”

“I’m not going to hide, Jen.” When Jensen lifts an eyebrow Matt concedes. “Okay, okay, I’m not going to hide anymore.”

“You know, if you just - ”

“Seriously? I don’t want advice on this.”

“I just don’t know--”

“No. Exactly. You don’t know, so please just-”

“Gentleminds.” Wayne returns, slipping in beside Matt and motioning to a guy who has come up behind him. Small, slim, mid-length honey hair; and a nervous glance at Jensen. “This is Finn. Finn, these are my boys. Jensen. Matt.”

They exchange their hellos and – as Wayne fills Matt and Jensen in on how fucking fabulous Finn is - Finn just stands there, arms crossed tight around his chest, defensively. He knows he’s in the middle of a set up; or his IQ’s somewhere near the three digit mark, and he can work it out for himself.

Jensen’s own skin constricts with anger and a sharp pain, like a stab in his back, forces him to his feet.

“Uh, sorry, excuse me, I’m gonna get a refill.” Jensen almost trips up on his own feet; he can’t get out of there fast enough. There’s no point to it, he can’t go anywhere [Matt’s driving]; he can’t run away. He opts for standing in line at the bar and jamming his fists into his pockets. It’ll save any poor bastard that looks at him the wrong way.

“What’re you doing?” Matt steps up beside him with a knowing look.

Jensen grits his teeth. “Who is he?”

“Well, come back and ask him yourself.”

“I’m asking you.”

Matt’s amused smirk turns to exasperation, throwing his head back with a sigh. “He’s just a guy Wayne knows.”

“A gay Wayne knows,” Jensen corrects. “So you thought we’d make an awesome couple?”

“No. I’ve met him before. He’s a good guy, once he gets talking. You’ll like him.”

“I’d like a night out with my buddies, actually. Only, they all seem a little fuckin’ preoccupied with where my dick’s going.”

Matt looks around, embarrassed; he’s never been good at public displays, so he lowers his voice. “Is this about Peter-”

“Oh, Christ, don’t,” Jensen barks, not daring to look Matt in the face. If his best friend’s not careful he could lose that title pretty damn fast. “Don’t even. I mean, you can’t even sort out your own fucking relationship, why do you need to press mine?”

“See, the thing is, Jensen?” Matt hisses, digging a hand into Jensen’s shoulder. “At least I give a fuck. At least I’m worried about where I’ll be tomorrow and who I’ll be with. We just want you to give a fuck, okay?”

Matt leaves, pushing into Jensen hard as he does. Jensen’s caught between his anger and guilt, and figures the easiest way to balm them both is with a drink. They argue plenty; they argue about Jensen’s work, and Matt’s OCD and who stole the last egg roll. They argue, they forget, and they fix nothing. They’re a broken picture of old, abandoned pieces and they like it that way.

“Hi there.” As Jensen waits for his scotch – neat - a young, petite brunette with the most impressive tits Jensen’s ever seen pushes up beside him. Pushes.

“Uh, hi.” Jensen feels like he’s 13 again, still questioning his sexuality. He literally had a ‘Giving Up Boobs’ talk with himself, once. He couldn’t believe it was in him.

The girl turns, leans backwards against the bar and looks him up and down. Evaluating. “You’re gorgeous.”

“Well, thanks.” Jensen throws a few notes at a clearly amused bartender. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

“Have we met?”

Jensen chuckles, a quick shake of his head, no. “I think I’d remember.”

“What do you do for a living?” she asks, twisting her mouth and squinting her eyes. He feels like he’s under a microscope.

“I’m a photographer.”

As if it was a pop quiz and he gave her the right answer, she claps her hands and bounces. “Aha!” Jensen tilts an eyebrow and she pulls herself together, nodding with fake indifference. “I see, I see. So … do you, like, take pictures of famous people?”

“Uh, not really. That’s commercial, I’m more … candid.”

“Right, right. So … well …” She puffs her cheeks out. She’s bored. “Have you seen any new movies lately?”

Jensen swallows down the last of his drink, and furrows his brow at her. Oz, that’s where he must be; some make believe place. If she wanted to get into his pants, surely she’d have technique. Talent. Especially given the look of her; the sprayed on pants and little halter top that says, I know, right? She’s can’t be an amateur. “Why do I get the feeling this isn’t some random meet cute?”

“Ho!” she cries, punching him with a small, affectionate fist. “You know your movie lingo. Very good.”

“What …?”

“Okay, okay.” She throws her hands up in the air, surrendering. “I’m here with Jared, alright? There. You forced it out of me.”

“Jared …?” It takes him a moment to catch up. When he finally understands her, when he finally remembers the only guy he’s ever met named Jared, he still doesn’t believe it. “Jared Padalecki?”

“The very same,” she says, bouncing again, a stupid grin on her face. If the fucking kid was George Clooney, he might understand her exuberance.

“I … okay, well …” What the hell’s he supposed to say to that? “Where is he?”

She rolls her eyes. “Hiding, naturally. It’s his 21st, so he’s completely drunk. He didn’t want to talk to you and risk saying more than he should.”

“More?”

“Look,” she cuts in, a hand on his arm and a let’s-get-serious voice. “I’m supposed to be over here scoping out the situation, seeing if you like boys or girls, seeing if you’re as nice as you pretend to be. Except there’s this guy checking me out over there and I don’t have time.”

“I … what? I …”

“Jared’s totally infatuated with you,” she explains, offhand, straightening out her hair and flashing grins to someone across the room. “Like, he’s been getting into trouble with his ‘people’ because he’s been spending so much time in San Fran, hoping to run into you. Now he has, so, I don’t know. Will you go and speak to him at least?”

“I guess … I …”

“Great. He’s over there,” she points to a far corner of the room. “With Chad and Ollie. Funny looking guys, bad hair. It was nice to meet you, Jensen. I hope I see you again.”

Jensen watches her go, stunned, mouth half open and glass frozen in mid air. It feels oddly like a tornado has just passed through and he’s quickly picking up all the pieces it left behind. Jared. Infatuated. Trouble. Fucking Hell. Who is this guy and how did he wheedle his way into Jensen’s life? Jensen downs the last of his drink, abandons the glass, and heads in Padalecki’s general direction.

Even sitting down, Jared Padalecki isn’t difficult to spot. A head above his company, he’s staring dumbly at the table top with his mouth half open. He sways out of time to the music, and has a random hiccup. If Jensen had brought his camera [and abandoned his integrity] he could have taken a photo of this shit and cashed in. Damn his southern sensibilities.

Jared looks up as Jensen approaches, getting to his feet too fast and stumbling over. In some lovely little bite of irony, Jensen’s forced to catch him so he doesn’t face plant into the dance floor.

“Whoah, you alright?”

“Sorry, man, sorry,” Jared paws at him; stupid-big hands at Jensen’s neck, holding his collar and pulling unconsciously. His face is too close, his breath is too warm; the distinct smell of vodka lingers in the space between them. Jared’s just, staring. His dark eyes are glossy with the booze and open, wide open, as if he’s baring his goddamn soul. Jensen squirms beneath the pressure.

“Okay?”

“Fuck, you’re hot,” Jared says heavily, and Jensen hears Jared’s buddies chuckle behind him. Jensen pats him on the back, awkwardly.

“Thanks.”

“I-” Jared let’s go, stands to full height, the back of his hand over his mouth and a finger up, wait. Jensen sees it coming, and tries to move out of the shooting range; but it’s no use. Stuck amongst a sea of people and Jared, Jared who’s too drunk to think of turning away. He lets the contents of his guts go, all over Jensen’s boots.

This meet is really, really fucking un-cute.

*

It’s the ugliest Morning After Jensen’s ever woken up to. Jack, Johnny and José are locked in a ruthless battle inside Jensen’s head; fighting to the death. Every inch of his skin is sewn to the mattress and he can’t move, or get up, or open his mouth enough to call for help. It would be no good, anyway. Matt’s asleep on the couch – he’d called a ceasefire after last night, after Jared Upchuck-i proved projectile vomiting to be another of his useless skills – asleep so deep his snoring sounds like the rumble of a goddamn submarine.

It’s no use. Jensen will just have to lie there until he decomposes.

Or until there’s insistent rapping at his front door.

“Matthew Kimmel, you open this door now.” Jillian. If the woman is anything, she’s persistent. Jensen could roll over and let the crash of his headache drown her out; but she’d chain herself to the door until her demands are met. It’s not like Jensen has a wrecking ball handy to dissuade her. “If you don’t open this door I’m pulling the fire alarm. I’ll bet you’re walking around in there naked.”

Jensen pulls every muscle he owns, kicking a foot out to wake Matt. Matt doesn’t move. He’d yell at him, but his vocal chords are tattered after one too many renditions of Lionel Ritchie’s Hello [thanks to Padalecki’s school boy crush, Matt had dubbed it their new anthem]. He could smother himself with his own pillow, but he’s too chicken shit, and he’d never be able to concentrate over Jillian’s wailing anyway.

Five minutes of pain and suffering later, Jensen – wrapped in a sheet – manages to open the door. Jillian’s in her running gear, dark blonde hair pulled back in a messy braid; arms folded tight against her chest like a straight jacket. Her face is hardened with wrath but her eyes speak of other pains. “You look like shit.”

“So, better than I feel,” Jensen says, cheese-grater voice barely above a whisper.

“Is he here?”

“Passed out on the couch.”

“What did you two do last night?”

“Short version?” Jensen falls against the door jamb, pulling the sheet up around his shoulders and struggling to keep his eyes open. Jilly just taps her foot, literally. “We yelled at each other, cleaned up chuck, came back here and got shitfaced.”

“That sounds romantic.”

It sounds like one of Chris’ songs. “He’s a basket case, you know. Without you.”

Jillian presses a flustered, open hand to her forehead; glides it back over her hair. “So you take him out drinking?”

“What else should I do?”

“I don’t know, Jensen. Talk to him, help him, make him call me.”

Jensen stands straighter, indignation crawling up his spine, an invisible guard. “You think I didn’t try?”

“I think I overestimated you.”

“I-” Jensen has a few choice words he’d like to throw back at her, sting her with, but he’s distracted by a figure coming around the corner. A tall, dishevelled figure that, in Jensen’s opinion, he knows too fucking well. “Jesus Christ.”

Jared nods, once, as if to say I’m afraid so, hunched low and smiling that forced, awkward smile Jensen quickly grew to know the night before. Whatever terrible things Jensen’s done in this life, in the hundred other lives he must have had before it; it’s all coming back to bite him in the ass. “Hey.”

“I’ll be inside,” Jillian mutters, pushing past Jensen without so much as a glance, and closing the door behind her. Jensen’s forced to step out into the hall, practically naked save his favourite boxer shorts and a sheet that’s God knows how old.

“Look, uh.” Jared jumps right in but keeps his distance; hands splayed out so he can gesture at Jensen theatrically. “I’m really, really sorry about last night. I - I was gonna get on my plane and pray I never run into you again but my Mom always told me that the shit you don’t face up to is the shit that will always haunt you and I – I don’t know … I’m just really, really sorry.”

Jensen’s just staring at Jared, dumbly, watching the wide stretch of his eyes and the rapid open-shut of his mouth; like a silent movie, the words not really hitting home. When an uncomfortable hush settles over head, and Jared gives him a look that says, Well? Jensen croaks, “Dude. You ralphed on me.”

Jared laughs; though it’s more of an embarrassed giggle, covering both eyes with a hand. “I did.”

“There’s really no going back from that.”

Jared breathes, deep into his gut, head and shoulders and chest rising back to full height. Jensen’s half asleep and wholly hung over - reduced to his simplest, most primal being- and he notices, in a way he’d been trying really hard not to, that this guy’s built. It’s part of the day job, obviously; non-acting 21 year olds don’t usually need a zip code for their chests.

When Jared says, “I can’t make it up to you?” in something akin to begging, Jensen wishes he had the energy to belt the boy upside his stupid, pretty head. You don’t do this, you don’t woo me.

“Look.” Jensen squirms, pulling the sheet tighter round him. “You’re a good kid, I-”

Jared snorts. “Kid? How old are you?”

“25.”

“Oh, well, sorry,” Jared mocks, throwing his hands up. “I didn’t realise I was roaming with the dinosaurs.”

Jensen can’t force back his chuckle. “Smartass.”

“I have a flight, later, but I thought we could grab a coffee or something. You, uh.” Jared grins, pulling at a cuff of his hoodie. “You look like you need one.”

“Thanks a lot.” Jensen can’t handle the doe-eyed look on Jared’s face, or the Leading Man smile that Jensen’s sure won him his part. Jensen’s name is not Sue Ellen, he is not 16 and he does not pin posters of Jared Padalecki on his wall. “I’m …” Flattered isn’t the word. “Thanks, for the offer but-”

“It’s just coffee,” Jared explains, a hard edge to his voice that speaks the unspoken words. It’s not about that. “I owe you.”

“You don’t-”

“Uh, yeah. I do. Besides, I don’t want my last impression on you to be … well, you know.”

Jensen lifts a lazy eyebrow. “Recycled Big Mac?”

“Dude, gross.” Jared pulls a face. “It was a Quarter Pounder.”

Jensen laughs, again, and the thing of it is? Jensen doesn’t laugh in the morning. Hell - unless he’s being paid – Jensen doesn’t talk in the morning. It’s a life long thing, dating back to the 80s, when he’d put his Hot Wheels sunglasses on before breakfast so his family knew not to bother him. They didn’t come off until lunch time.

“Coffee?” Jensen repeats, the very thought soothing his aches and pains already. “A very, very large coffee?”

“Sure. For you, I could make it two very, very large coffees.”

“Okay, just …” Jensen turns around sleepily, forgetting that the door’s right there and face planting into it. He burbles, “I need clothes,” with a cheek pressed against the wood, listening to Jared laugh on behind him.

“I’ll be waiting.”



*

Moment: They’re standing at a crossroad, and not too close; eyes cast down and lips curled up. Jared has another business card wedged between two fingers, proffering it toward Jensen.

Truth: This time they both know it’s not about business. Jensen takes the card, anyway.

Part Three.
 
 
 
facetofcathy on July 29th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
The girl turns, leans backwards against the bar and looks him up and down. Evaluating. “You’re gorgeousbounces. “Aha!” Jensen tilts an eyebrow and she pulls herself together, nodding with fake indifference. “I see, I see. So … do you, like, take pictures of famous people?”

Is there something missing in the middle there?
howdoyoutakeithowdoyoutakeit on July 30th, 2010 09:06 am (UTC)
There is. Thanks so much for catching that. It's amazing what one little missing symbol missing can do.
dr_ducktatordr_ducktator on July 30th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
I meant to tell you the last time I commented that I'm totally digging the sketches.
keerawakeerawa on August 2nd, 2010 04:02 am (UTC)
Jensen doesn’t laugh in the morning. Hell - unless he’s being paid – Jensen doesn’t talk in the morning. It’s a life long thing, dating back to the 80s, when he’d put his Hot Wheels sunglasses on before breakfast so his family knew not to bother him. They didn’t come off until lunch time.
You're my kinda guy, Jensen! (And, author, what a fabulous way of drawing that character trait.)

Seem like he made quite the impression on Jared during that photoshoot.
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