His hands are cold and sweaty on the statuette as he peers out past the lights, but Jared's got a grin on his face wide as the Pacific. His mom's out there, his big brother, his manager Ally and his producer Sara; the makeup girl who did his first pro shoot and the guy he did it with. A few guys he's done shoots with. Jeff's smiling, Ally's ecstatic, and Sara's got the nomination for best studio tucked into the world's smallest sequinned handbag. But this category, his category, this is the one that matters to Jared. Best Newcomer. For him, it's the key, the kind of attention and acknowledgement he's wanted since he'd seen his very first AP film - the first AP film - a pirated, stumbling video tape he'd had to watch with the sound down and the bedroom door barricaded.
He'd been fifteen.
Right now he's twenty-two, legal, clean, licensed, and as of two minutes gone, officially the Best Newcomer of 2005. Tuxedoed and high on nothing more than excitement, on stage.
"I get to say something?" Jared says, consciously, pleasantly ironic, and a ripple of laughter runs behind the lights. He tries to look behind them. It's not just his family he wants to see. "I guess... Eh, guys, thank you. I'd like to say, I kinda owe this to my manager, Ally. And Sara - you guys know Sara, yeah? - 'cause if it hadn't been for these two ladies I wouldn't be standing here tonight. And my mom's here, so thank you, Mom, I really appreciate that you're here, and I guess this isn't what you imagined for me, but bless you for understanding. All the guys I've done shoots with, this year - I'll be in the bar later, yeah? But mostly thank you to you people for voting me this. I love you." The clapping has already started, and the MC is pointing at his watch. Jared takes a deep breath and half a step forward.
Ackles, will you shoot a movie with me?" he asks, grinning, and that's
when the cheers start.
Different tuxedo, longer hair, and this time it's Jeff flanked by Sara and Ally on the SG Studio table. Jared's not a newcomer anymore. He's done some kinky shit this year and he's proud of it: he loves the afternoons Sara and he spend in a crowded office, running scenes and ideas. He's done watersports, role-play, frat boys, location shoots: he's got a blog, he's on MySpace and Facebook and he's done a few conventions, although he thinks he's never going to get used to the look in a guy's eyes when recognition hits. There's a small line of products with his name on it, and he's kind of enjoying that bit, hands-on.
"Hey," Jared says. He narrows his eyes, but he still can't see past the footlights. "Gotta say, I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed right now. Best anal, best short scene, best top? You people sure know how to make a guy feel wanted, and I can't tell you how much I love you for it. This one's for all the guys on film with me - Ryan, Paul, Shaun, Mal - see you later, yeah? And for my manager, Ally, and Sara and everyone at SG. Love you guys. Thank you so much."
He waits for the clapping to start; a few whistles. "Jensen Ackles," Jared says. "You didn't call. But I'm still yours, man - wanna shoot a movie with me?"
time there's more laughter than cheers.
"Have to say, guys, this is no less cool 'cause it's the third time I've been here," Jared says. "Thank you so much. Really. That you keep voting me these awards - wow. But you know I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Sara and everyone at SG - I'm not really this pretty live, y'all! - and my manager, Ally. Love you, babe. And of course everyone I've filmed with this year - that's Michael, DeShaun, Del, Misha, Kristof - thank you so much." He pauses. He's a little wearier this time around. A little older. He's not burned out, just....
"Ask him," Sara yells.
"Jensen Ackles," Jared says. "I guess you lost my number, huh? I'm right here. Get in touch, man."
The cheers sound the same, but this time his smile's wry around the edges.
They all look up when the door opens. It's January in New York and there's snow on the ground, but the man who walks in is wearing nothing more than a pair of jeans and a T-shirt held together with thread and safety pins. He's young and blonde and prettily muscled, and almost automatically Jared thinks, bottom, loud, shaved. The thought doesn't even register as sexual. Jared can't remember the last time he fucked someone off camera, just for fun. He's hot, blondie, and by the way he looks Jared up-and-down with a widening grin, cruising, but Jared gets paid to fuck twinks on camera, not off it, and right now he wants his beer more. It's only by habit that he checks out the guy who comes in afterwards. The one with the boots and the jeans, the padded coat and the Burberry muffler and Jesusfuck he's gorgeous.
The guy is smoking. Like, burn up the screen smoking. Like, be still my beating heart, get down on your knees and wrap your mouth around my dick now smoking. It's like they're on the Footloose set: Bryan Adams is singing, and Jared feels like he's crash-landed without a parachute. Like the bell tolled once and nevermore for this man, this man with the mouth and the eyes and the feel of him like Jared knows him inside out and upside down and not at all.
He doesn't even look at Jared, the man coming in the door with Jared's heart in his hands. He's unwrapping the muffler, head bent, eyelashes down. He's got bow legs and a wide legged stance and broad shoulders, and there's a careful, conscious assurance about the way he walks that's half high school jock and half big city butch. Working at the knot of his muffler, his hands look strong, his fingers broad at the tips, and his fingernails are manicured. He's the small town football star no gay teenager dares notice in public, the actor on the daytime soap with the fanclubs and on-line bulletin boards, a safe and unreachable dream.
With an urgency so shocking his hands are white-knuckled on the bar and his knees weak, Jared wants to fuck this man into next week. Next year. Or the other way around. He's got no context for this: the line of the guy's hips says he'd bottom, the easy brace of his shoulders says top. Lowered eyelashes say sub, but the quick hard assessment of the stare that pins Jared to his stool and jolts him right down to his dick says, beg me for it real nice and I just might.
Jared would. Sweet Jesus, if that's what it took, Jared would get down on his knees and run his mouth dry. There's a moment when he thinks it's going to happen, when the atmosphere between them is so intense he's shivering and the eyes he can't look away from are as wide and dark as his own must be. He knows those eyes, that face. He's seen this man before.
Then the guy at the door looks away. Walks up to the bar like there's nothing going on, asks for a beer, his voice so low that Jared can't hear it, unbuttons his coat and pulls out his cell phone.
Jared can't let go of the bar. His mouth is hanging open, his dick's trying to strangle itself in his jeans and his toes are curling in his boots. He's never wanted anybody so badly in his life: the feeling is as sharp as a knife to the guts.
Jared blinks. He'd forgotten there was anyone else in the bar. But it's the twink, blondie, the one with the T-shirt, tucking himself up too close to Jared's barstool to be casual or overheard.
"Looking kinda lonely there. You wanna talk?"
"Huh?" Jared manages.
"That's real smooth," blondie says, and he's smiling to take the sting from the words.
It's almost familiar. Before he went pro, before Sara, when he was still doing web cams and shorts he'd fucked more sassy LA wannabes than he can remember. He always did prefer the ones that answered back. Typecasting. Jared's a big guy, and there's one hell of a market for oversized tops and barely legal bottoms. It's not really Jared's thing, but if it was, blondie would be almost perfect. Almost like he's made up for the role. Tonight, it's the last thing he needs.
"I'm Michael. Mike."
Jared says, "Hi," and doesn't smile back.
Leaning against the bar, Mike's body language is easy and open. "So I'm guessing you were at the awards?" he says. "I recognize your face. It's hard not to."
"Yeah," Jared says, manages to pull together half an appreciative nod in the interests of fan service, and goes back to staring at the guy down the bar.
"Two awards," Mike says. "And your studio. That's... kind of hot." He's got his elbows propped on the bar, hips canted up and legs apart. Eyes half-lidded and dark. Everything about him says willing and able.
Jared could care less. "Thanks," he says absently. He's waiting for the guy down the bar to look up. Please.
"So..." Mike says, long and low, with a question at the end of the word that's as much an offer as the pout of his lips around that drawn out O.
Dragged back, Jared says, "Sorry, dude. I'm just not -" then he registers the glint in Mike's eyes. It's amused, far more aware than his pose or his mouth suggests. He's older than Jared first thought, and his jeans are designer and the watch on his thin, tanned wrist is Swiss.
"Do I know you?" he asks.
"You could do?"
"The camera ain't running and I'm not on the clock," Jared says. "You've got stuff going on for you, dude, and you know it, but you're not my type and I don't think I'm yours. What gives?"
Mike blinks at him for a moment. Then he turns around, reaches for his beer, lets his shoulders loosen, and suddenly he's not posing. He's just another guy at the bar at the end of a very long day.
"Thought I'd be just what you're looking for," he says, but the words are amused rather than regretful.
Jared can't stop his eyes sliding back down the bar.
"Oh, really?" Mike says quietly, and now he's got laughter threaded through his voice and his eyes are curling up at the corners. He doesn't even look in his early twenties, now. For real, he might be older than Jared.
"Sorry," Jared shrugs, apologetic, because his mama raised him better and he's always tried to do his best by his fans. The guy at the bar, though, that's personal.
"Funnier than you even know," Mike says. He's still grinning. "Look, I know him. I'll introduce you if you want. That good?"
"Hell yeah," Jared says, and uncurls his hands from the bar so carefully he can feel every muscle unlock. His dick throbs once, unreasonably optimistic. It's been so long since he's even tried to hook up, he can't think how to do this. He can't even remember if he's got lube. Right now, Jared's got nothing on him, not even a wallet. There's a roll of notes in his back pocket, and his cell phone tucked by his room key. That's all. If anything happened. If sex ever happens. If people really do ever fuck each other for real these days, if it's not some celluloid fantasy meant to appease the lonely. He doesn't know what the hell he's going to say. You'd look good on my dick is not going to cut it while the cameras aren't watching. And Jared's thinking breakfast along with the first skin flick he'll have directed as well as headlined. He's thinking telephone numbers and how it's gonna suck that he's based in LA. He's thinking jetlag and Sunday mornings with the funnies and maybe a dog. He's screwed.
There's a raised eyebrow waiting for him. "I guess you know," he says. "I'm Jared. Padalecki."
"I know," Mike says. "C'mon. You wanna meet the man, now's your chance." He's already turning to walk down the bar.
When he moves, the guy at the bar looks up, a quick flicker of his eyelashes that registers exactly where Mike is and what he's doing. They know each other. It's that, you're okay, set for the night, call me later look. It takes no more than a second, and the guy's already leaning back to his beer as the afterthought of that glance flicks over Jared.
Jared's staring back. That mouth. Eyes. He wants this guy naked with an urgency he hasn't felt since nudity became a mandatory clause on his paycheck. Three practiced motions and he could run his thumbs up the line of buttons, rip that crisp white shirt off with the coat, and strip the man bare.
It's got to show. The guy's eyes widen. He swallows, the bob of his Adam's apple jerky and vulnerable, and Jared's dick twitches in sympathetic recognition. He'll take that mouth any way he can, fingers, dick, tongue. Wants to sink his teeth in the cushioned curve of that perfect lower lip and see what it looks like bruised and swollen. Wants to know what they're going to sound like together, for real, the way Jared sounds when he's alone with his hand on his dick, breathy and quiet. Wants this guy to look at him and see him, Jared himself, the man behind the muscles and the smile and the dick that's a latex mold on every sex shop counter. There's a moment when Jared thinks, on a swell of amazed, gleeful relief, that he can see the same startling recognition in the face of the man looking back at him, in the nervous duck of his head and the way he looks up from under his eyelashes and the bite of his teeth in his lower lip.
Then there's nothing other than flat out panic in those eyes. Grabbing his cell phone, clutching the neck of his coat as if he can hide behind it, head down, the hot guy at the bar makes a break for the door. He moves so fast, it's obvious he'd be running if he had an ounce less pride.
He's straight, Jared thinks, felled by shock. He's gotta be straight.
Maybe it's something Jared did wrong. Maybe he's too tall, too old, too big -
"What did I -"
But Mike's staring at the closing door with exactly the same bemused expression on his face that Jared's got to be wearing.
"Ain't that a thing," he says, so quietly Jared has to strain to hear him.
Jared's hands are still shaky, so it's Mike who buys them two shots. Turns out the man works for a studio in New York, not on camera, which explains why Jared doesn't recognize him. They hang out, winding down, exchange war stories and phone numbers, and it's three in the morning by the time Jared rolls into bed.
It's only then that Jared realizes every question he's asked has been politely and expertly fielded. He doesn't know any more about the guy at the bar now than he did when the man walked in, flipping Jared head over heels right back to the years of raging teenage hormones and ridiculous dreams.
He hasn't even got a name. And Mike doesn't answer his texts.
There are three gold-plated dildos masquerading as paperweights on the countertop, but the woman behind them has the exact same pursed expression as his junior school librarian. She's not smiling.
"Hey Marianne," he says, "How're you doing?"
"Got a big pile of mail for you, JP," Marianne says. He's going to get her to crack her makeup if it's the last thing he does. It's his mission in life.
"Like the hair. You get it colored?"
"Nope. She's waiting."
"Aw," Jared says. "C'mon. You love me really. What does she want?"
"Can pretty well guarantee it's exactly what everyone else around here wants," Marianne says.
Jared grins. "You love my pretty ass!" he says. "It keeps you in haircuts. And cookies," he says, and Marianne glares up at him from under the teased bangs of her newly red hair.
"I'm going," he says, hands up. "Watch me go. I'm so gone."
He takes the corridor to Sara's office, walking between the familiar awards and the glossy photographs and the signed posters. Inside, the room's small and cramped, crowded with unstable stacks of DVDs and video tapes and film canisters and books and clippings. Sara works in a messy, creative jumble so different from her organized authority behind the camera, Jared has to readjust every time he opens the door. In habits, the director and the producer could be two separate people.
Behind the desk, Sara's smiling. It's an odd smile, a little tight around the edges. There's an envelope in front of her, so clearly placed to be seen that a shiver goes down Jared's spine.
"That the test results?"
"Those are confidential and you know it," Sara says, taken aback.
So it's not the clinic. "Sara. Please?"
"It's not the test results, Jared, you know you're clean. Sit your ass down. I've got something for you."
"I'm not doing GQ," Jared says, relaxing. "Ties make me itch."
"I know. There's something else we need to talk about. It's good though, so don't loom."
Jared sits. Sara stands. She's got the envelope in her hands. Wanders through the piles of DVDs to the window, looks back.
"Do you remember the first time we met? You and me and Ally? You were still wet behind the ears, and I thought, not another one, and then you said you needed your lawyer to look at the contract and sent it back with the Ackles clause? And I signed it?"
"Sara," Jared says, his shoulders tensing.
"I never thought you'd need it, babe," Sara says. The smile's still trying to spread over her face, but her eyes are serious. "I got this today. I'm sorry it took so long to call you in. I wanted to make sure it was legit." She shrugs. "It is."
She passes over the envelope. It's postmarked New York.
Jared can almost hear his own heartbeat shiver. He wants this so badly, has hoped and wished for the chance so often, it's almost like he's experiencing the moment as deja vu. He knows how he's going to feel. He knows what's on the paper. It's like it's happening in retrospect, a detached memory: he's dreamt this moment so often that when it actually happens he feels unreal.
The envelope's been opened, but that's normal. Everything that goes to the studio is screened before Jared ever sees it, and usually that's a good thing. Right now, he has to force himself not to snatch the envelope from Sara's hand, and he feels so fiercely possessive he's astonished himself. He can't look Sara in the eyes for the surge of resentment that tightens his throat. It's not fair that she saw this first.
Under his fingertips the heavy-weight paper is smooth, and his name and the studio address are handwritten in an angular, black-inked script. The nib of the pen has indented the paper, as if the person writing was impatient. Or angry. Jared's hands are not steady, easing the papers from the envelope. There are three or four printed sheets, a compliment slip, and a business card that falls to Sara's desk which reads Michael Tovanni, administration manager. Ackles Productions.
When Jared unfolds the pages, after the first second when he could barely dare read the words, he knows what he's looking at is an insanely detailed contract. For one shoot. For Jensen Ackles.
He's wanted this since he was fifteen. A year ago, he would have whooped with joy. Now Jared looks up, the paperwork heavy in his hands, and Sara's looking back at him, and they're both thinking about the last two films AP released, the detached faces and the harsh lighting and the script that was nothing more than grunts and slaps. It works, it's hot, of course it is, it's Ackles, but Jared fell in love with the slow slide of skin against skin and actors who smiled at each other on film.
"I'm still signing," he says.
"Yeah, I know," Sara says. She looks down, flexes her hands, and the wedding ring on her finger glints in the afternoon sunlight. "New York's only a plane ride away. Call me, I'll come. You know I will."
"I know," Jared says. "Thanks." When he smiles, it's a small, tight smile, and he reads the contract word for word twice over with Sara at his elbow and Ally and his lawyer on speed dial.
When the phone rings he snatches it off the cradle.
"Sir, we have a delivery for you in reception which requires a signature. Are you free?"
Jared is. He stumbles out of his room and waits impatiently for the elevator, and five minutes later he's signing for a thick manila envelope he can't resist opening on the spot.
It's a script. Thirty pages of script. With dialogue.
It's tough, but Jared saves reading it until he's back on the bed. He hasn't seen a script this long since he gave up on acting classes. It has conversation, character building, plot: nothing he's familiar with from the industry and all of it fast paced and snappy. With notes. In the margins, between the lines, someone has added annotations in almost illegible, tightly controlled black handwriting. "Block here," Jared reads, lying on the comforter with pages drifted around his elbows. "65°, ck lighting, wide angle, F#20 filter..." He hasn't got five pages in, no one's fucked, and his own Sam's just about to open the door to his room (PACE waterfront dorms, ask Mike, permit?) before he realizes he probably wasn't meant to read this. He thinks, 'This isn't my script. These are not my notes.' It's not as if someone has photocopied the wrong copy, either. The words are handwritten.
Jared reads it anyway. He's familiar with the camera directions and the lighting notations. He's worked on the same things with Sara, once she knew that he was interested. But what he's not familiar with is the scope of an Ackles shoot. There are at least three cameras on set, a lighting stage, location shoots, wardrobe notes and score reminders, occasional sketches and doodles. He's fascinated. Even at the point where Sam fucks Rick for the first time, Jared is far more interested in the acerbic, dry commenting on the side - "JP, hands," he reads. "No ass shot, Boys in Toy Town, T on top." It's true. He's always been uneasy about the camera zooming up his ass, and he kind of likes it when he gets to lie back and let the bottom do the work, but he didn't think he was that obvious and he's never met another director who knew his preferences before they even started. It's impressive, makes him wonder if Jensen Ackles - but Ackles must have seen his films. Must have analyzed his films, and the thought's scarier and hotter than it should be, because this is work.
When he gets to the end he's got a good idea of which cameras are going to be where, and that he's going to have to concentrate on the line learning front. "JP?? Poss. prompt cards? Check autocue," the notes say, and Jared huffs and reminds himself, he's an actor, they don't know him, he can do this. But he can't remember the plot - and he has to laugh, because that's not something he ever thought he'd hear himself say about a porn film. Leafing through the script all over again for the dialogue, Jared likes what he's reading. Sam's words feel natural in his mouth. He says them along with the script, imagines what he - what Sam - is going to do and feel. Then he puts the script down, and looks out the window, unseeing. He's conscious of nothing more than an overwhelming sense of relief. If the script stands, Jensen Ackles has written a story that's nothing more than boy meets boy, boy fucks boy.
It's nothing like the last two films the director's shot. It's actually disconcertingly similar in feel to the very first film he'd ever made, the one that Jared's still got. The one he'd had to have converted to DVD himself, because no connection he or Ally or Sara had ever made, distributor, wholesaler, collector, had ever listed that first film. If Jared hadn't hung onto the original, battered video cassette, he'd never have known Auberge existed.
Like that original, this one's about two college boys who meet and fall in love over the course of a long, hot summer. There are moments in it that Jared already knows are going to be tender in a way he's only ever seen in an Ackles film. It's what he was hoping for, but it's been so long since he's had to do anything on camera but turn up on time and get his dick out, he's as nervous as he is excited. He's going to have to act. "Eh, Jay," Jared says to himself, wry. "Up your game, boy, you wanted this."
Then he puts the script back in the envelope, pulls on his jacket, and heads to the studio.
He doesn't know what to expect. He's shot in more cheap motels than he can remember, fly by night offices, warehouses, and industrial units on anonymous estates. After she moved, Sara based SG Studios in an old firehouse just off Santa Monica Boulevard, and most of her shoots are in-house, but novelty sells and Jared's dragged his ass all over LA.
Ackles Productions has a suite of offices in a high-rise so new the door staff smile and the elevator is eerily silent. The lobby is glass, and unlocked. He pushes the door open cautiously, but the woman behind the desk looks up and smiles. "Jared? Jared Padalecki?"
"Hi?" Jared says, and then, "I -"
"You're even bigger than you look on screen!" she says, and then she blushes. "Whoa, I'm sorry, that was really inappropriate. You'll be wanting Mike. This way. I'm, er, Kate," she says over her shoulder. "I do paperwork. There you go."
She's still a little pink, but the smile she gives him is almost frighteningly maternal. She's got to be twenty at best.
"Thanks," Jared says. Through the open door, he can see a man in a skinny black suit talking emphatically into the smallest cell phone he's ever seen. The suit's new, but not the hair or the hands. He recognizes that face.
They've met before. In a bar, in January, after the NAVGAY awards. Jared remembers a ripped T-shirt, a dirty smile, and an unanswered text. Maybe, several. He'd never mentioned which studio he worked for, the man who'd tried to hook up after the awards and didn't mind when Jared wasn't interested.
Mike. Michael Tovanni, the name on the door. The name on the card with the contract. There'd been more going down in that bar than one hot guy meeting another. Mike must have known exactly who Jared was. If they'd hooked up - he could second guess himself to infinity. He doesn't know what the hell's going on, here. But he's angry. He feels manipulated, pushed: he stalks forward and slams the script down on the desk. "Was that an audition?" he demands.
Spinning around, Mike's expression is nothing but shocked surprise. It's two frozen seconds before he mutters, "Gotta go," and snaps the cell closed. "If it helps, you passed," he says apologetically, and then he's all rueful, wry charm, the mask of it pulled on just as it had been when, raw, Jared had sat in a bar in New York and watched the one man he'd ever wanted just for himself run out the door.
"So who was the other guy?" Jared forces out. "Competition?"
Mike looks away. From the doorway, Kate claps her hands. When Jared glances back, she's leaning against the door frame, grinning.
"Dude," Mike says. "That was Jensen."
It's like being hit by a sledgehammer. "You're fucking kidding me," Jared says, before he can stop his mouth. Then he sits down. He has to; he's a little wobbly around the knees. He thinks, Jensen Ackles. Jensen Ackles. The guy with the mouth and the eyes. The guy Jared imagines he can touch, sometimes, when he's jerking himself off over some tanned LA body he's only going to see once. "I thought he had a beard," Jared says. "I thought he was old." Jensen Ackles can be no more than three or four years older than Jared. Then, Jared says on a rush of unexpected, spine tingling curiosity, "Was he checking me out?"
Mike says, "That was the third time you'd asked him live on stage. You think he wouldn't know?"
"Huh?" Jared says, and remembers, that was the plan. "Never really thought he'd notice," he says, still shocked. "I mean, he, I -" he grinds to a halt. That was Jensen Ackles? "He... He was there because of me," Jared says, stunned.
There's a wicked glint in Mike's eyes as he looks Jared up and down. "Oh, he was. He knew you. Just don't... Honey, we're not the kind of place where you earn your credits on your knees, okay? Whatever you're thinking, it's probably not."
"Whoa," Jared says. And then, "You could have warned me."
"If you'd screwed up, you wouldn't be here," Mike says. He looks at Kate, and that's a we know something you don't moment.
That look sends a twist of pure sexual curiousity hot and dark through Jared's belly. "What, so..." Jared says, and then he swallows his words. He's not going to mess this thing up before the cameras even start rolling. He's really not. "So," he says, "Do I get to be introduced this time? Because I'm pretty sure you sent me the wrong script and I think this one's his." He flourishes the envelope as evidence.
"Thank God," Kate says, and snatches it out of his hands. "He's been going nuts. Bless you." And she's gone. With the script.
Jared blinks, and stares at his empty hand.
"The read through's tomorrow," Mike says. "You'll meet him soon enough. You might want to restrain your enthusiasm. He's not shy, just," he pauses. "That's why it was me you met in the bar."
"Right," Jared says.
"It wasn't anything you did," Mike says. "And no hard feelings, either. Him or me, and I hope you too. Which would be a good thing, because once you start shooting, we're going to get real well acquainted. Wardrobe, props, it's all my department. D'you have any idea how hard it was to find a pair of four inch pink stilettos in your size?"
"That's not in the script," Jared says.
"I know," Mike says, sly and grinning. "But it could be." Then he stands up, looking at Jared's face. "Seriously. No. It's all jeans and jackets. Designer stuff. A sweet pair of cowboy boots. You'll like it."
"Hm," Jared says. "Because it's been really nice meeting you." But he's smiling. The Ackles Productions team isn't what he'd expected at all. It's almost familiar, the same give and take he gets at SG with the guys he's known for years. He kind of likes it. If it wasn't for the, the Jensen factor. He hadn't planned on that one. Not at all.
"Texas boys," Mike says, which is odd because most people don't pick up on the accent, these days. "You're gonna be the death of me. Look, it's all good, okay? We're really looking forward to working with you. And that was a cool thing you did with the script - I've got - no, it's gone - here, have mine. Ignore the stuff about plaid, okay? Jensen nixed it this morning. Get it back to me tomorrow, I need those notes."
"Now get?" Jared says.
"Yeah," Mike says. "There's a lot of you in my office, Jared Padalecki, and I need to chew some distributor balls. You'll have me all day tomorrow, cross my heart."
"Thanks for the reassurance," Jared says. He stands up and heads to the door, and then he hesitates. Ducks his head, goes for plausible denial. "Have you guys got a restroom?"
"Down the corridor. On the right."
"Thanks. Tomorrow. No stilettos."
He's expecting to see the usual promo shots and awards on the walls, but the corridor is bare and just a little intimidating, with polished brass plaques on the real wood doors and a carpet Jared's sneakers brush through in expensive silence. The plaques on the doors read: John Easterby, Director of Photography; Martin Lambert, Special Effects; Studio One; Studio Two; Timmy Chiara, Dressing Room; Jared Padalecki, Dressing Room.
Yeah, he likes that.
Studio three; Kate Ramone, Administration. No Jensen Ackles, not yet, although the corridor stretches on and Jared's starting to feel uneasy. It's not that he's stalking or anything. Kind of, they've met before. Just because Jared wants, badly, to see if six months have made a difference, if the same sexual charge will resonate between them now as it did in a bar in January, doesn't mean it's actually okay to go looking for the man without even the excuse of the script in his hand.
But the restroom door's wedged open, and the hallway's discordant with something metal banging, hard, against something else.
After the lobby and the corridor, Jared doesn't find it surprising that the restroom's all designer fittings and carpets and sparkling porcelain and glass, moisturising lotion in branded bottles, white towels and ambient light. It's a beautiful room, and pristine it would be boutique pretty, picture-perfect.
But it's filthy. Something here's gone messily wrong. There are puddles on the floor, the tiles are muddied with grease and rust-red water, and the panels are torn out from under the basins. By the door there's a well-used, open toolbox and inside there's a man working on the pipes, flat on his back on the tile floor. He's not wearing overalls. He's wearing boots, worn soft, polished black leather lace-ups, and a pair of faded blue jeans ripped and damp at the knees, and a greyed out Led Zeppelin T-shirt that clings in all the right places.
There's a reason plumbers are a well-used cliché in porn. Knees up, boots planted on the tiles, back arched, flat bellied and beautifully muscled with an intriguing bulge in his jeans, the man's gorgeous. And like any faux householder in need of nothing more than a big dick and a good hard fuck, Jared edges closer. He's surprising himself. He's had gorgeous. Gorgeous has got down on its knees and downright begged for Jared's own dick, bent over for him in more positions than he can remember. Depilated, buffed, tanned, groomed to perfection, gorgeous is so normal for Jared it's routine.
But this man isn't artificially tanned. There are scars on his knees and stains on his T-shirt. He's not shaved, but his pits are sparsely furred and engagingly damp with well-earned sweat, and there's something disconcertingly tender and intimate about the pale skin of his underarm.
It's a surprise, the moment when Jared thinks about running his fingers up that bared skin, about what it would taste like under his tongue. It's not his thing. He doesn't do casual sex any more than he does relationships. He knows exactly how to make a guy look well-fucked for the cameras, or fucked over, or whatever the flavor of the day should be, but off camera Jared likes his space. He hasn't even thought about hooking up since he'd stood in a bar in New York and Jensen Ackles had walked away from him, and before then... he can't remember, it's been so long. But, here, his body surprises him with its instant unscripted response. His balls are tightening, his dick's a moment away from hardening, and unexpected arousal shuffles him from foot to foot on the tiles.
Nothing is going to happen. Just because he could name five different movies off the top of his head that start with this identical setup doesn't make it real. He's a porn star. He does it for money, not just because he can, just because the urge to lick his way across that flat stomach, bury his thumbs under those sharp hipbones and push between those bony, unevenly tanned knees and strong thighs is almost irresistible. The sex he's thinking about is a fantasy played out in Jared's head, not on screen, but it's no less unreal.
When the man coughs, sound cuts through image. "Mike?" It's an authoritative voice, and Jared likes the way it resonates against his skin, muffled and deepened by the echo from behind the paneling. "Pass the wrench? The one with the tape on the handle."
He could walk away. He probably should. He doesn't. Just as he's done for his father and his big brother, years ago, in Texas, Jared sorts through the tool box and pulls out the one wrench with the taped up handle and passes it over. He has to fumble it under the counter (smooth, Padalecki, real smooth) in a move that leaves him kneeling in a puddle of dirty water. Vicious, hollow clanks echo from underneath the basins. A screwdriver is waved vaguely in his direction: he takes it and drops it on the tool box. There are more clangs. Under the grey T-shirt, muscles bunch and strain as the man works. Jared's hand would just about cover a belly that's endearingly not ripped, just a little soft over muscle. He could curl his fingers under that well worn belt, his thumbs over a package that looks satisfyingly well shaped. The view's more than worth his damp knees.
He's already got an image in his head of how this could go, fast and scrabbling. He hasn't even seen the guy's face. It's not usually that important. It is now.
A particularly loud bang banishes that thought. Every muscle in the body Jared's watching tightens. Then his fantasy plumber snatches himself out from under the counter, swearing viciously, and after him there's a fine fountaining spray of water that gets Jared, fairly exactly, from hair to crotch. It's surprising how wet water is.
"Ah fuck, sorry."
"S'okay, it's fine," Jared says and, blinking, looks up.
He's got water in his eyes and his sight is blurred. But he recognizes that mouth, and those cheekbones, and the dark line of those stupidly attractive eyelashes.
Jensen Ackles does his own plumbing. Also, he's just as ridiculously hot and as crazily familiar as Jared remembers.
It's shock Jared can hear in that voice, tighter and sharper than it was two minutes ago. "Hi," he says weakly, pulling at what had been a crisp Paul Smith shirt, thirty seconds ago. Now it's skin-tight and stained. This isn't his best first impression. Second.
"You weren't. Due." Jensen Ackles tries talking with his hands, when he runs out of words. He's disconcertingly disconcerted, and as wet as Jared, his T-shirt clinging to his chest and shoulders.
you better -?" Jared waves one hand at the free-falling water spray
and brushes droplets from his face with the other.
"Shit, yeah, but you -"
"I'm not gonna melt," Jared says. "What was it, the valve? Shoulda turned the water off first, dude."
"Yeah, I get that," Jensen says, looking down at the spreading puddle.
is still falling over Jared's face, dripping down his shirt and soaking
his crotch. Jensen's hair is slick and his eyelashes damp. His mouth's
just as hot as Jared remembers, but his hands, broad and grease-stained
and bruised across the knuckles, are hotter.
"It's okay, you can swear at me," Jared says. "No one loves a smart ass."
"Right," Jensen Ackles says, and grimacing, ducks back under the counter. One hand gestures emphatically: Jared drops the wrench into it, dripping, and enjoys the view. It's awesome. More than good enough to make up for the clammy stretch of his clothes and the ache in his knees.
Fixing the leak takes a good five minutes, during which Jared learns that Jensen Ackles has a filthy mouth and is surprisingly flexible for a guy on the other side of the camera. Jared keeps his hands to himself, resists the urge to offer advice, grunts approval when the water stops, and by the time his director rolls out from under the counter he's wrung out his shirt and found a mop.
"There's no need to do that. You're not here to clean the floors. Or help fix the plumbing. I got it."
Jensen's got a smear of grease over his nose. His eyes are wide and waterlogged, his hair and eyelashes spiked and damp. He's got freckles. Freckles. It'd be cute, but he's not smiling. His mouth's held tight, there's a frown line between his eyes, and he looks so distant that for a moment Jared wonders if the whole thing was some sort of practical joke. Maybe it's some other talent Jensen wanted. Maybe he hadn't realized Jared was the man in the bar. Maybe Jared's taking the next flight back to LA with his tail between his legs and that would be a hell of a shame, because even now he could almost touch the tension between him and his director and although it's nothing he's ever felt on screen he's pretty sure it's everything to do with sex.
He can't say that. He stumbles over you're fucking gorgeous and swallows, anything else I can help you with? He manages, instead, lame, "I kind of thought you'd be older." Then he takes a deep breath, and says, "Can we do this all over again? You're Jensen Ackles. I'm Jared. I'm a big fan. And I thought you should know you're the best thing that's happened to me all day." That one comes with a smile, wide-eyed. It's only half acting. Jared's knocked sideways, off his game.
But dumbstruck's a good look on Jensen. There's a moment when Jared has to backtrack, but no, there's nothing he said that Jensen can't have heard before from half a million fanboys. It's just that Jensen can't seem to look higher than Jared's mouth, and he's... he's blushing.
"Er, towels?" Jared says gently.
"Yes," Jensen says. "Yeah. Towels. Right." He's not moving.
"Maybe in the dressing rooms?" Jared prompts, and if there's a running fantasy in his head that involves naked, shower, and Jensen's dick in his mouth he's never going to admit it before at least three shots of tequila. He's a professional, he can zip it up.
"Yeah," Jensen says again, and shakes his head. "Look, I'm sorry, I just wasn't expecting, you - towels. Yeah. Wardrobe." He backs away. And Jared gets it. He can be a clumsy, slow idiot sometimes, but he's not stupid. There's a flush on Jensen's cheekbones, and his eyes are dark, and he's fumbling with the wrench, and it's exactly the way Jared felt in that bar in New York. The way he feels now, his dick hard in his wet jeans and his chest tight and his skin itching.
Just to check, Jared undoes the top button of his shirt. Then, the second. Jensen's eyes drop with the movement, and he shivers.
Oh thank the sweet Lord, he's not the only one. With a flash of heat that's almost adolescent, Jared's inner teenager is rejoicing. Unless he's badly wrong, Jensen Ackles thinks he's pretty, too. There's a quick answer to this one that involves getting naked, fast. There's a longer answer that starts with this is a really bad idea, storms through breach of contract, and ends with blacklisting. But it's not about the contract. It's about the set of Jensen's mouth, pressed so tightly a muscle ticks in his jaw, and the way his eyes flick up so quickly when Jared moves. His mouth gives nothing away. His eyes are so vulnerable Jared reaches out his hand. He's not sure what he's going to do, but touch has always been as much part of his language as words.
For real. Jensen flinches, and the moment of it, the thought, freezes Jared utterly still. He doesn't even drop his hand. It's suspended between them, motionless. He opens his mouth. He's got nothing to say.
"What?" Jensen snaps. He's taken a step backwards. Two. He's almost backed up against the basins. Jared steps back himself, carefully, giving the man space. "What is it?" The words are short and sharp.
Jared swallows. He doesn't know this man. It's not simple anymore. He feels like he's already lost a game he didn't know he was playing. And Jensen's not helping. He's glaring back, his hands stiff, his eyes narrow. He's on the edge of saying, get out, and Jared's in too deep already. He can't let Jensen throw him out. He can't.
He says, hesitant, "Towels?" because he really is dripping and Jensen's soaked from his boots up.
That's the moment when Jensen pulls himself together. It's like watching an actor pull on a character. His shoulders straighten, his face hardens. He looks five years older, and distant, and suddenly he's the guy who's going to be telling Jared where to stand, what to say and when to come for the next two weeks. In Jared's mind, the film he's been running curls up and burns.
"Yeah," Jensen says. "This way."
Jared doesn't even let his eyes drop, following. Not that he'd be looking anyway. That would be really inappropriate. And Jensen's shoulders are tense and his voice tight and higher and clipped, tour guide neutral, and Jared wants to know what the hell he did this time and knows he can't ask.
"Wardrobe's this way. There's stuff."
The room is packed with metal racks and clothing, labeled. There's a tag for Sam Jared wants, badly, to investigate, but Jensen is pulling down towels from a rack and he needs to be dry more.
Ackles Productions doesn't stint on soft furnishings. The towels are fluffy, soft, and white, and Jared manages to dry off without making it too obvious he's watching Jensen. He really is soaked. His shirt's a lost cause, and his socks are soggy and wrinkled in his sneakers.
"If you want a shower," Jensen says, "there's a dressing room with your name on it. Mike will kill me if I rob out wardrobe, but I've got some clean sweats."
"I'd sure appreciate it," Jared says. His shirt's off and he's starting on his jeans. It doesn't occur to him that this might be taken the wrong way until he glances up and sees Jensen's face. Jensen's hands are still, caught in the towel draped over his hair, and under it his eyes are vivid and dark and his mouth is parted.
Jared doesn't stop. He slows down, adds a shimmy that's pure showmanship, and hides his grin under his hair when he hears Jensen's breath catch. He works hard on his body. It's kind of nice to know it's appreciated. And it's not like... it's real. It's not like he's going to touch.
A toweling robe smacks him hard in the chest. It's held there, Jensen's weight behind his hand. "Don't. I get that you're pretty with your clothes off," Jensen says. "But around here no one wants to see your bits unless the cameras are rolling." He lets the robe fall.
Jared looks up and grins, sly. The words are just sitting on the tip of his tongue, despite the edge to Jensen's voice. He's not gonna say them. This is Jensen Ackles. Wet all over, a little pissed off, a little turned on. He's a Texas boy, just like Jared, and one of these days Jared's going to hear that story over a couple of beers, somewhere where the music is good and the beer is cold. He'd look good on his knees, Jensen. He'd look good spread across Jared's bed, back in LA. And that's a thought that's new, and it's showing.
Jensen says. "Look, do I have to pull rank? 'Cause I have to tell you, dude, if I thought you were going to slut around on set you wouldn't be here."
"Gotcha," Jared says equably. "I hear you." He looks Jensen in the eyes for a moment, honest, because he's not about to screw his dream job over Jensen himself, and Jared wants to be in an AP film more than he wants to be in Jensen. Although he wouldn't say no to both. Just so Jensen knows, he adds, "Would it help if I said it was just you? I don't play around. I don't want to. But you're... dude, you know what you look like."
He can hear the hiss of the breath Jensen pulls through his teeth. But all Jensen says is, "Fine. Just -" he looks away. "Shower," he says. "There's a dressing room with your name on. I'll be in my office."
'Huh,' Jared thinks, and puts the robe on. His own name is embroidered on the pocket. It's a nice touch.
When he comes out of the shower there's a pile of sweats, clean, on the dressing table. A pair of silk socks, and the knitted boxers with them are still in their wrapping. Coffee, which is above and beyond and Jared sips it gratefully as he pads down the corridor to Jensen's office. The door's open. Jensen's on the phone. He's dry, and his T-shirt reads I'm not a porn star, I'm a pornographer. Waved at the chair, Jared sits down.
It's obvious AP's got problems with a distributor. Jensen's got a sharp tongue, a sharp wit, and a great line in restrained sarcasm. It's kind of scary hot: it takes ten minutes, but by the end Ackles Productions have screwed another 2% out of the deal, extended credit, and a sweet nonfulfillment clause that Sara would give her eye teeth to have. And when he clicks the cell off, Jensen punches the air in triumph like a schoolboy, before he remembers Jared's on the other side of the desk.
It's a little sad watching him sober. Jared waits, putting on helpful and obliging and friendly, which isn't actually that far from the truth, apart from the fact that he's still half-hard and he's not on the clock.
"So," Jensen says.
"Look," Jared says. "You're crazy hot and I'd have to be blind not to notice. But I get that it's not your thing. And it's odd for me too, you know? So I'm sorry if I came on too strong and I promise, no trouble on set. I'm not gonna make eyes at the camera or grab your butt in the elevator. This shoot matters to me. I'm not going to fuck it up for you. Promise."
When Jensen ducks his head for a second, Jared's pretty sure that's a smile he's hiding, but when he looks up his face is stern. He says, "See that you don't. I haven't got time for anyone screwing around on set, and there's a return ticket to LA in my desk with your name on it. Don't mess up."
"I heard you," Jared says, and he's doing his best to ignore the thrill that's slithered down his spine and the way his dick's half hard again already. He doesn't do this. His dick's paid for and signed over, it's got no business nosing after someone Jared's never going to have and doesn't get paid for fucking. He says, "I'm good with that. I swear, you won't notice a thing." He thinks, 'But if you ever change your mind, I'm right here,' and he thinks that thought's private until he looks up and meets Jensen's eyes. Ouch.
But Jensen huffs out a laugh that's more shock than amusement. He says. "Not gonna happen. Let's just put it down to not mixing business and pleasure and leave it there. I've called you a limo. You good to go tomorrow?"
"Sure," Jared says. "Thanks," he says.
There's nothing on Jensen's desk but a screen, a keyboard and a wireless mouse. Empty, the polished wood seems wide, and Jensen sat behind it is a long way away. His mouth's tight, his eyes are so pleasantly neutral Jared can't read them at all, and his hands are flat on the desktop and motionless.
But Jared hadn't been imagining it, that moment when Jensen looked back. He just hopes he can forget. He doesn't need an even bigger crush on his director than the one he's already got. So he jams his hat on, sticks out his hand and shakes Jensen's (nice firm grip, not too hard), wheels around and marches out with his head held high. Smile for the camera, Jay.
Doesn't make any difference. He's still face-down on the bed, humping his own hand, wincing and stopping and starting all over again, just a little, just to take the edge off so he can get to sleep. He could be filming tomorrow: he can't come, he shouldn't come, but he squeezes a little harder, two fingers wrapped under the head of his dick and a thumb pressed into his circumcision scar. Jensen's got square hands, workman's hands, broad fingers, filed-down flat fingernails, gripping clumsy and a little tighter than Jared would touch himself -
Jared snatches his hand away and rolls over in bed, staring at the ceiling and breathing hard. His toes are curling, he wants to push his ass into the mattress and spread his thighs, wonders if Jensen doesn't shave his pubes as well as his pits. He'd be dark haired, strong wiry short hairs, smell of sweat and musk, and Jared doesn't know if the man would laugh or whimper stroked against the grain. He licks his lips, wants to taste salt and skin, can almost feel the soft fur of the hair on Jensen's inner thigh on his cheek and the prickle of stubble against his nose. Jensen's jeans were old enough to have worn thin over his balls, round and full, and he's broad-shouldered, powerful: his dick's going to be thick and heavy and Jared's mouth is watering, his hand splayed on his stomach and inching down to tug at his own.
He sits up, punches the pillow into shape, lies down again. Rolls over. Rolls back. He's got the kind of hard-on that isn't fading away: it nags, stands up and waves cheerily, rocks against Jared's belly when he moves and scrapes damp-headed against the sheets. It's a deal breaking contract ripping monster of a hard-on and he's not even being paid for the thing, but it's still signed, stoked and ready to roll: property, Ackles. Productions.
"Great," Jared lies. "Thanks for the limo yesterday," he says.
Kate must have got up at zero o'clock, because the frizzed curls she had yesterday are frighteningly sleek today, but her smile's wide and happily surprised. "Thanks," she says. "Good to see you back. So he gave you a script, yeah? You got it with you?"
"Sure," Jared says, like he didn't check twice in the elevator and once again in the lobby.
"Good," Kate says, and then she says, "I hear you gave Jen a hand with the leak, yesterday." She's still smiling, but one eyebrow's gone up and her face is brightly curious.
"Yeah," Jared says. And then, "Did he... did he say anything? About me?" God, he might as well be in high school.
"Only that you know one end of a wrench from the other," Kate says, "And believe me, that's a good thing."
"Oh," Jared says, and he knows his mouth's turning down at the corners and he can't help it, not that he thought Jensen Ackles would be writing his name with little hearts around it anytime soon.
Kate pats his hand. "Don't worry too much, okay? And today's just a dry read - lots of stuff can change before we roll. If there's anything you're not sure of, say so, yeah? He's really a total pussy cat, he'll be fine. I mean it. Go on through."
Jared thinks, that doesn't help. He didn't mean to, but he jerked off to Jensen Ackles' hands last night and came to a heart-clenching image of his own come clinging to Jensen's lowered eyelashes. Now he's wondering if Jensen would arch his back under Jared's hands the way his mother's cats purr and preen.
But he says, "Thanks. See you later!" with the broadest grin he can sum up.
Kate waves him off with another smile. "First on the left!" she shouts after him, which means Jared has to do an abrupt about-face and nearly bumps into Mike and the tray of mugs he's holding. Jared didn't sleep well. It makes him clumsy.
"Hey, Jared, good to see you. Get the door for me?"
"Is that coffee? Because, man, I gotta tell you, I love you so much right now. Really. Like -"
"Help yourself. Check. Coffee for Jared. Not gonna be a problem. If Kate's not got a brew on Jensen will have. Just don't tell him I said that," Mike says, grinning.
"I heard you," Jensen says.
Jared whips around so fast he nearly drops his mug. Then he says, "Hey?"
And Jensen shakes his head. He's got a tiny little amused smile that's brand new for Jared. He's got a black button down that looks expensively soft, and a different pair of jeans, just as comfortably worn as yesterday's, the same boots, and he's wearing glasses. Glasses!
Jared had no idea he had a thing for glasses. But, clearly, he does, and oh God he is so screwed, because he's not just imagining taking them off, he wants to see Jensen's hand groping for them in the morning, and the bedside table he's mauling is Jared's own, and Jensen's hair is messy and there's a pillow crease on his cheek and Jared wants.
"Jared," Jensen says. This Jensen, buttoned up and prim and in control. "C'mon in, pull up a chair."
"Thanks," Jared says, looking down into his coffee as he sits and hoping the color in his cheeks can be put down to steam and not the kind of flustered embarrassment he thought he'd left behind with high school.
"I ought to..." Jensen starts, his own hands cupped around a steaming mug, "Look. I'm sorry about yesterday. You didn't catch me at my best, and I might have come across too strong."
"Justifiably irritated?" Jared says.
"No," Jensen says. "That's not it. We've never worked together before, and I know things are different elsewhere. But we've always run a clean set here."
"Not a problem," Jared says. "At all. I'll just sit here and, uh, observe. Learn. If that's okay with you. And, dude, I'm sorry about, well, if I hadn't..." Drooled all over you.
"Okay. Fine," Jensen says, and nods. He starts to say something else, but the door opens, and that's definitely relief that crosses his face as he stands up. "Dave! Phil! How're you doing?"
"Jensen, my man!" Dave, Jared thinks. Tall, burly, stubbled head and stubbled chin: he's wearing sweats and a hoodie, which makes Jared think that he might have taken this dry reading too seriously in his loose jeans and the new shirt Sara bought for him and made him pack. Phil's smaller, younger, but just as dark and just as stubbled, with a broad grin and laughter lines around his eyes. East Coast talent. It's one hell of a generalization, but they're both older and hairier than the guys Jared's used to shooting with. Dave and Phil are switching in the script, and it fits: Jared's seen them both before. Jensen shot them for Hallows, AP's last film, and Dave at least has been in three or four others for the studio as well. Nothing else, they're AP exclusives, and judging by the backslapping and exclamations of, "Yeah, right out in the boondocks" and "This new Swiss stove, man, you've got to come over" in a British accent, they're Jensen's friends as well.
Jared gets his script out, a little intimidated. He lays it out, prods at the corner, and looks around while he's got the chance. The table's solid antique pine on a modern steel frame, freshly polished, the chair comfortably padded. There are bottles of water and notepads and pens, a couple of bowls of candy. A whiteboard and markers: no screen. It looks like a conference suite, this office, deep brown carpet, cream walls, and framed certificates on the wall - hell, that's a couple of cinematography citations, one for music (music?) and one for excellence in the art of Ikebana, which explains the orchids on the table. He blinks.
"Kate's," Jensen says, unexpected. He's back in his seat, and opposite, Dave and Phil are looking at Jared with the same friendly curiosity he feels about them.
"I was kind of expecting the NAVGAY awards?" Jared says, and everyone bursts out laughing.
Pointing a finger in Jensen's direction - Jensen laughs with his hand over his mouth, almost shy - Dave manages, "Jen here... back of his old garage, for fuck's sake..."
"Barbeque," Phil adds in. "He had them under a dust sheet." He's the one with the British accent.
"I sent you for charcoal!" Jensen says. "Did I say, make out in my garage and while you're at it pull the shelf off the wall? Did I hell."
"You set us up!" Dave says.
"Riiiight," Jensen says. "So, Jared, these two reprobates are Dave and Phil, and they're gonna be our lecturer and his TA. Guys, this is Jared, and he's our Sam."
"SG Studios, right?" Dave says. "I loved that beach movie you guys did, kind of modern retro? That was sweet. Hot, too."
"Really?" Jared says. "We weren't sure - we wanted that Boys in the Sand feeling, that kind of mystical, anything goes look? But natural light, man, I swear we spent half the day waiting for the sun. It worked for you?"
"Absolutely," Dave says. "Loved that moment when you come out of the water. Superb."
Jared laughs. He says, "It was February. The water was fucking freezing."
"We didn't notice," Phil says, with a sly, mischievous grin. "Jen said -"
"Hey, Timmy!" Jensen says. Loudly, looking up to the door. "Timmy, c'mon in, sit down. Mike, you're late."
"You want more coffee or what?" Mike says. "Don't argue, I have the cafetiere."
"Guys!" Timmy says, arms flung wide. "We're back!"
He's little, skinny, his hair spiked platinum blond and his pants hipster thin: his ears are pierced right up to the tips and his bare arms sleeved in Japanese chrysanthemum tattoos. He was in Hallows too, and now he's Jared's partner. Rick. Jared stands up, awkward, smiles: he's never quite got used to the moment when he meets someone he's going to be fucking in the next... half hour, half day. Five minutes, on the worst shoots. Sara's great about it, but Jared's met guys when he's already hard for the camera or a week before at casting, and it doesn't get any less weird either way.
He's putting his hand out when Timmy screams. "Jared! Jay-man, you're here!"
"Uh -" And that's as far as Jared gets with that one, because Timmy's hugging him. Timmy's head just about comes up to Jared's shoulder, but for a skinny little guy he's wiry with muscle and he hugs hard.
"Jensen, can we keep him?" Timmy says, leans back, and grins. His hands aren't wandering, his grin's broad, but he's not letting go and when Jared sneaks a glance at his director Jensen's starting to frown. Jared's stuck: he's got no idea what's okay, what he's supposed to do.
"Dry read!" Phil yells from across the table. "Put him down. He's new."
"Timmy," Jensen says, with an edge of authority in his voice that makes Jared's back straighten.
"Dude," Timmy says, and lets go. "I cannot tell you how good it is to see you here. This lot, they're all tired and jaded, and I said to Jensen last time we wrapped, Mr Director God, get me something good to play with next go around, someone pretty, and you know? He did."
Timmy's grin is wide and wicked and Jared likes it. He says, smiling "Glad to meet you."
"I like my back scratched, I do my own prep, and you're fucking gorgeous. We're gonna have fun," Timmy says.
"Just so you know," Dave says, "He screams. Wear ear plugs."
"Fucking right," Mike says.
"I hate you all," Timmy says, still smiling, and drops into his seat.
"And we're done," Jensen says. "Guys, good to see you again. I'm sure you've all read the script, so let's get going. You need to know I'm looking for connection here, so you two get to do whatever it is you do anyway, and Jared, Timmy, you're young, you're horny, and you're balls deep in love. I want butterflies, okay? So, opening -"
"Butterflies?" Timmy says.
"Butterflies," Jensen says firmly. "Right, we're on campus, it's spring, the birds are tweeting, and Jared, you've just seen the most gorgeous guy you've ever set eyes on in your life. Opening scene. Mike?"
"Hey, Sam," Mike says, filling in. "Wait up!"
"Oh shit, is it me?" Jared says.
"Really?" Jared says. "Because I haven't done this for years, and I was kind of thinking maybe not with the..." He stops.
"Jen! Jay here says Sam doesn't do kinky!"
"That's not -" Jared says, clutching onto his coffee, "No, I didn't -"
"What, the bit at the hotel?" Jensen says. "Kate didn't like it either. What would you do instead?" His head's on one side, serious, eyes on Jared's.
"I guess... you want to show that it's something real, right? It's that - I'm not sure that's Sam's thing? Maybe something simpler. Like that moment in Auberge when -"
Jensen's suddenly, absolutely, still. His eyes have widened, darkening. Jared's stuck mid-sentence, watching the color drain from his face.
"Auberge?" Mike says. "I don't know that one?"
Jared says, "It's French." Then he's hurrying, stumbling over the words. "Sorry. Sara brought it back from Paris for me. I think it'd translate as A Room and a Bed, something like that?" He's lying. He is so lying, and Jensen's watching him wide-eyed and unbreathing. "So I think maybe something small? Holding Rick down, maybe? Let me think about it. Mike," he says. "Any chance I can see Sam's clothes? Just to get a feel for what he's gonna look like?"
"Sure," Mike says. "We got five. Store's this way."
'What the fuck was that?' Jared thinks, following Mike down the corridor. It's not like... Auberge is as vanilla as it gets. Two guys, one room. Three scenes, thirty minutes of film, fixed camera: it's only the lighting that makes the film memorable. That and the first boy, the shape of his back and his hands. Yet Jensen's face looked as horrified as if he'd shot a snuff film and Jared had caught him mid-scene, and Mike hadn't even known the film existed.
"So, this is what we've got," Mike says, and then he says, "Look. I'm not Jen's BFF and fuck knows he doesn't need someone else messing around in his business. But I know you guys met yesterday and I'm telling you now, lay off. Jen doesn't need that kind of shit."
"I heard you," Jared says. "I heard him too." He feels cold. It's fine - it's not fine, but he can live with rejection, that's okay, he can deal - but if Jensen's pissed enough that he's getting Mike to warn Jared off, that's serious. 'Keep your eyes front and your head down, Jay,' Jared tells himself, and tries not to think of Jensen's face, that moment when he'd backed up against the washbasins as if he didn't want Jared within five feet.
"Make sure you're listening," Mike says, and turns around to the rack. "So. This is Sam when we first meet him..."
He gets a chorus of nods, and Timmy's already pulling out his cell and texting.
"So, bright and early. Y'all know where you're going, yeah? Kate'll have fair copies for you tomorrow and I promise we'll start slow. Timmy, do not get laid tonight. Jared -"
"Once!" Timmy says, looking up with a quick grin.
"Glad you heard me. Jared, you got a minute?"
"Sure," Jared says, and sits back down. Jensen looks... abstracted, and Jared's stomach muscles tighten and he has to roll his shoulders to shake the tension out. He wasn't that bad, was he? Bad enough to be written off before he'd even started? Had he been too loud, too invested? Jensen had seemed to be on board with discussion, but this wasn't SG.
He says, "If you're gonna write me off, say it now."
"What?" Jensen says, the word sharply shocked. "No. No. Jared. I was just going to -" He stops, looks away. Opens his mouth and closes it, looks back, says slowly, "I was going to say, I liked the way you read Sam. Thanks."
"Oh," Jared says. "That's good, right?" Except that it's not what he thought Jensen was going to say. He waits.
"Yeah," Jensen says. Then brightly, smiling, "You'll be fine. See you tomorrow." He's gathering up his paperwork, checking his watch, head ducked down.
Jared says, slow, letting the smallest hint of a drawl slip into his voice, "Was there something else?" Then he thinks, shit, and says, "Not, not - look - oh God, I'm so crap at this -"
Jensen looks up. He says, crisp, "If you're asking if I want your mouth on my cock, the answer is no. I don't fuck my actors, Jared. I was under the impression we'd covered that one."
"That wasn't - look, I would, okay, I totally would, but that wasn't - wow. Did I really say that?" Jared says. "I did, didn't I? You must think -" He's definitely blushing now. "Just - no. Forget it. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. See you tomorrow. If -"
There's a smile curling around the corners of Jensen's mouth, under his hand, and his eyes are crinkling at the corners, but he's shaking his head. "Out," he says.
He calls Sara that night, same as he did last night. Talks her through the dry run and the debates, how Jensen got them to read through the scene and then workshopped the dialogue, how they'd looked at locations and choreography and staging. He's never been so well prepped for a film he didn't work on from the start, and he really likes Jensen's inclusiveness, the way he'd listened and taken notes and reworked the text, and he likes - likes a little too much - the moments when Jensen had shut down a discussion that was getting out of hand or moved them on. He's got this kind of quiet authority that -
"Jared," Sara says. "Jay."
"He's fucking gorgeous," Jared says miserably.
Sara, the bitch, laughs.
He has to call her back. "No, look, can you do something for me? Next time you check the house, can you pick up the DVD and FedEx it over? It's the one in the blue case, right at the bottom of the shelves? Auberge."
he says. "The one I tried to track down."
They won't be shooting the first scene until tomorrow, but Jared still preps as carefully as if he was, checks there are no stray hairs, exfoliates, moisturises, wears his clothing loose enough not to leave a mark on his skin. His nails are filed smooth, his hair gleaming, and he's vain enough to know he looks good for a kid from Texas who's always been too tall and too loud.
Or a kid who's moved around so much he's not quite sure where he comes from. Sam's a little younger than Jared, a little less sure of himself, quieter. Sam kissed a girl in sixth grade and another, uncomfortably, at someone else's sixteenth birthday party. He's known he was gay since he was thirteen, but he's never told anyone, not even the one person that matters -
'Huh,' Jared thinks. He's trying to visualize Sam's parents, his smiling Mom and his gentle, supportive father, but he can't see them. They're unreal. Sam's so much clearer in his head, alone: not lonely but... used to being on his own? That's not quite right either. There was someone for Sam, a teacher, an aunt, someone closer... Jared doesn't know. But Sam. Sam's not lonely, he's got friends, he's enjoying his courses, it's just that....
"Main gate good for you?" the driver says.
"Great. Thanks," Jared says, and uncurls himself from the back seat. There's a man he doesn't recognize who waves him down and signs him in, checks his ID and takes his photograph and gives him a security badge and his new script. Beyond the gate someone else directs him onto set, where someone else takes him into a brightly lit room for makeup. The girl dabbing foundation on his nose is a final year student.
"Yeah, Mr Ackles is a friend of my Prof.," she says. "He went to film school with her husband. Most of the students are in today, and it's not just because... he does guest lectures?" she says, and blushes.
Jared laughs, only a little wry. He says, "Yeah, I know."
"And it's not like... He doesn't date," she says. "So, you know, a girl can dream. Also, Raj and Wills moon over his movies, so when the offer came up..." She shrugs.
"Are you just here today?" Jared asks.
"Nope," Rusty says, sorting through brushes. "Lean back. Close your eyes. Two weeks, full shoot. Don't worry. It's a closed set tomorrow, not even the film studies students get in. Most I get to see is some bathrobes if I'm lucky. Oh, and I get to be crowd. There's a scene in a bar, I think? And another one in the hotel, and the last one on the bridge?" She stops, does something with spray. "Keep your eyes closed... yeah. That's it. You can look."
Jared does. He tries to think of something to say, fails, and Rusty laughs, a sweet little high-pitched run of a chuckle. "It's okay," she says. "You're meant to look like you. It's in the specs."
"Phew," Jared says. "Because, yeah. That's pretty cool," he says, and likes that he made Rusty smile.
They're at the front of the campus, set up on the asphalt by the lawn. There are two cameras and the stills photographer, a full lighting set, a crowd of people fiddling with wires and tracks and coffee and laptops, and Jensen looking as if he's been there for hours, his hair ruffled under his New York Giants baseball cap and a clipboard in his hands. He's talking to a cameraman, smiles, nods, moves on to the sound crew and on the way stops to chat with one of the students wielding gaffer tape. He looks unhurried and confident, although Mike's trying to direct three assistants with clothes while holding a cell phone conversation. "Look, we're shooting now," he says, and "Hi, Jared. Raj, can you get him Sam's scene one costume? Blue label. No, I mean it, I'm on set, I can get you the figures in an hour..."
Jared takes the hanger with Sam's jacket and jeans and the box with his watch and his boots, and one of the assistants - in a PACE University sweatshirt - points him to another room. He changes, careful with the makeup, and there's a locker with a key for his own clothes, although Dave's left his jacket on a hook and there's a copy of Fever Pitch on the bench with a Strand bookmark and Phil's name on the inside cover.
When he heads back to set, they're filming. It's the conversation between Dave and Phil that establishes both characters, Phil's TA and Dave's tenured Professor. For a big man Dave looks surprisingly cuddly in a natural wool cardigan. Phil's hoodie and jeans are generic student code, but he does a great line in frustrated attraction. Dave is stubbornly blind, although somehow he manages to convey layers of amusement and half-flattered doubt. They're both great, steady, reliable, and the two shots and shot reverse shots are done in an hour and a half. Then there's the ten minutes Jensen takes to film the texture of Phil's hand against the heavy wool of Dave's cardigan, and the light through the aspen tree shading the campus lawn, and Jared watches with a half-forgotten grin on his face because that, that right there, that's why he fought for the Ackles clause in his contract.
Jensen's good. He's straightforward, he knows what he wants, and when he needs to explain, it's clear and concise. There's a throwaway grin to the camerawoman and a joke that makes Dave and Phil crack up on camera, and Jared can't look away. Something about the way Jensen stands, his easy confidence and the shape of his hands, the way sunlight gilds the short hair at the back of this neck to gold and strikes his eyes green: it's attractive, a slow burn of sexual awareness that Jared can feel curl through his belly, but there's something about trust in there too, and that he didn't expect.
Mike leans over Jared's shoulder and says, "That's you," and Jensen says, "Cut, great, can we set up for three, please? Anyone seen Jared?"
"Hey," Jared says, letting his voice carry.
Jensen turns round and smiles. He must have a million different things on his mind, but there's a moment when that smile is all Jared's, and it's warm. He knows he's smiling back, too soft, has to look away to hide his face. He wants to run a hand through his styled hair and only manages to stop himself just in time. Rusty threatened dire consequences, and Jared's made his fortune on the strength of both balls.
"Okay," Jensen says. "Okay, this is what I need you to do."
"It's not you," he says. "I don't know. It's not right."
"Ten minutes, Jen," Mike says.
"Yeah yeah," Jensen says. "How do you feel about one more shot?"
Jared nods. He's stopped asking what Jensen wants. He's done it every way the director could think of, and Jensen's still asked for more.
"It's just not... fuck, just do what feels right," Jensen says.
Jared nods, and walks off yet again across the campus lawn with Sam's bag in his hands. He's walking slowly, head down. Right now, Jared's almost as unsure as Sam. It's day one. If he can't produce the goods, Jensen could still call someone else, and Jared's just spent an hour on a shot that should have taken five minutes. He lets the bag drag his shoulder down and kicks his feet a little, ill-tempered. What the hell does Jensen want anyway? Blood? Because it's sure as hell not Jared. Not a hint, not a whisper: he could have been naked on set and Jensen still wouldn't bat an eye. He must have been so wrong about Jensen looking back; he's such a klutz, wanting someone who'll never want him....
"Cut," Jensen yells. "Hell yeah, Jared. Attaboy."
"- what the fuck?" Jared says. He blinks. Timmy's giving him a fist pump from across the lawn, which is at least better than some of the faces the guy's pulled in the last hour, and the second crew's already packing up.
"Can we have some help over here?" Mike yells, and there's a rush to the catering table and Jared's still bemused and blinking. He looks around for Jensen, but his director's looking at the replay on camera, hand shading the screen and his face together.
He doesn't know what he did right. He's got no idea. He wasn't even thinking about Timmy. But Jensen glances up and gives him a thumbs-up, he's starving, and that's good enough for now.
"Sorry," Jared says, still craning to watch Jensen talking to Dave and Phil at the bar. They're standing close together, and Phil's laughing, sexy little laughter lines at the corner of his eyes, and for all Dave's arm is slung over his shoulders it's Jensen he's looking towards. They have barbeques. They're friends. Maybe they have friendly threesomes.
"And don't frown," Rusty says. "I'm nearly done. If you didn't sweat so much..."
"Sorry," Jared says again, apologetic.
The morning was crap, but the afternoon's fine. Jared doesn't even have to work at Sam's bemused, overwhelmed headspace: he's short enough on dating experience himself to find Timmy's exuberant come-on confusing and attractive, and Timmy's mercurial, predatory Rick is beautifully done. It's almost fun, and they bag the shot in twenty minutes. Dave and Phil's coffee shop is almost as quick, and then it's a quick shift into the dorms, Mike tapping at his watch and the second lighting team finishing up the wires and gaffer tape with amazing speed. Jared goes for coffee, catches up with Phil at the counter and manages to convey how impressed he is without, he thinks, sounding like a complete idiot. Except when he finds himself with his hands full - "Take that one to Jen?" Phil says. "I gotta catch Mike, either these boots go or I do, he swore he had the sizes from last time."
"Sure," Jared says, and takes both cups over to the dorm.
Jensen says nothing more than mumbled thanks, but the way his hands fasten around the cardboard mug and the way he drinks with his eyes closed is telling. He's got stubby, dark eyelashes, thick enough that if Jared ran his finger over the line of them they'd spring back, resilient. He might have a thing about Jensen's eyelashes. It's absurd.
He nearly flinches, when Jensen's eyes snap open. There's a moment when they stare at each other, and there's two feet between and Jared knows he's too close and still, damn it, wants to get closer. He steps back instead, head down, like he was on his way somewhere else, but Jensen's still frowning. Then his chin goes up and he says, all director, "Right. Stay sharp, we've only got permission to film if the place is unrecognizable, so don't move outside your marks. Don't forget, Timmy's the one with the experience, but you're topping. Show it."
"Sure," Jared says.
"Nothing below the waist," Jensen warns.
"Sure," Jared says, and does exactly what he's told. He and Timmy roll around the wall, inside their marks, kiss enthusiastically for at least a quarter of an hour and slightly less enthusiastically and a little more painfully for the same amount of time again. The first couple of minutes Jensen directs, sotto voice, "Yeah, Timmy, arch your back a bit, drop your shoulder, Jared, let's see those hands..." but just about the point where Sam pins Rick up against the wall he stops, so Jared reckons either they're doing something right or Jensen's giving up in disgust. He's still not quite sure which one it is when they're done and moving over to Dave's office, which actually belongs to Rusty's Professor and has a cool poster of Clint Barton on the wall. The first crew's already set up, Dave and Phil are ready to go, and Jensen's saying, "'Kay, Dave, remember you could lose your job over this one..."
Jared goes for more coffee, gets two, slides the second under Jensen's nose and steps back in a hurry, and this time gets a confused, grateful smile that stops almost as soon as it's started. He doesn't say anything, he's already turning away. No pressure. He doesn't need validation. He doesn't need Jensen to tell him he's doing a good job, he really doesn't.
"Thanks," Jensen says, and "Good work. That last scene."
Jared, flushed, doesn't trust himself to speak, nods.
He's done for the day. He could go, but he's got nothing waiting on him but an empty hotel room and a blank screen, so he cancels the car and tucks himself up with tomorrow's script and his coffee and watches Dave and Phil glower and flirt over the desk. They're both amused: there's a moment when Phil adlibs and Dave bursts out laughing and Jensen has to call cut in a strangled voice that means he's just as entertained.
"Hey," Timmy says quietly. "Do you mind if I sit here?"
"What?" Jared says, "No, you're fine, what...?"
"Just meant to say," Timmy says, "Good shoot. Thanks."
He looks a little more sober in his own street clothes rather than Rick's clubbing gear, but Timmy's face, for all his cheerfully obscene jokes and wicked sniggering, is serious. On set, he'd been professional and friendly, as involved as Jared had been. Easy to work with.
"Thanks," Jared says. "You too."
They sit and watch Dave and Phil for a while. Or, at least, Timmy's watching Phil wriggle in his seat and flutter his eyelashes with a soft grin on his face. Jared's watching Jensen.
"You know they met on set, right?" Timmy says. His voice is... Timmy's been brash and forthright all day, and he's got a store of filthy jokes that had sent the whole crew into horrified laughter more than once. But his voice is soft, now.
Jared's still watching Jensen. They're not filming. Jensen's framing shots for the camera. He wants a close up of some papers on the desk... the tree seen from the window... Phil's hand on the edge of the desk. His face is abstracted, concentrated, but there's still a quick grin for the camerawoman and a sly smile for Dave, and Jared can't look away.
"Look," Timmy says. "Jay. About Jensen."
"I get it," Jared says, and sighs, because this is getting old. "You're gonna be the third person to warn me off and that's not counting the man himself. Just take it as read, okay? I get he's not interested."
"Uh, no," Timmy says, and Jared does turn around, then. "That's not what I was going to say. I think you should go for it."
"What?" Jared says.
Timmy blinks at him, innocent blue eyes and mischievous smile. "He's hot."
"That's it?" Jared says. "Just because... no. I mean yes! But. The guy is not interested."
"Don't be so sure," Timmy says. "And, honestly? You'd be doing us all a favor if you fucked the starch right out of him. You wait. You thought today was rough, you should see him at the end of the shoot."
"Pretty sure that's not on the menu," Jared says.
"Sure," Timmy says, deeply ironic, and quirks an eyebrow. He's got a pointed, expressive face, and right now he looks both amused and expectant.
"Oh, please," Jared says. "Not gonna happen."
It's sharp, the look Timmy gives him, and Jared shuffles his feet and takes another sip of cold coffee just to have something to do with his hands. But Timmy doesn't call him on it, just shakes his head and says, "Huh. Lucky for you, I'm a sure thing."
Jared has to laugh.
He turns his laptop on, sets it at the bottom of the bed, and drops the DVD into the tray.
There's nothing more than the black and white screen that reads AP, and then there's the bed, the two boys, and the window. He's always thought it was a motel room, but after PACE he wonders now if it was -
Jesus fucking Christ.
"Fuck, stop," Jared yells at the laptop, lunging at the keyboard, hitting all the wrong buttons and freezing the screen and then whiting it out and where the hell was, oh yeah, come on, come on. Black screen, bed, and - freeze.
That boy with the pale hair, the one with the thin shoulders and the wicked grin and the mouth Jared got off to most of his senior year. That boy, the one he fell in love with, a little, before he learned that porn isn't real.
It's Jensen ten years younger, looking like... ah, fucking hell, looking like a porn star. Pretty baby twink, the kind that wants it and gets it or doesn't want it and gets it anyway, hard. Back arched up and ass in the air, legs spread, head turned up. Hair dyed, longer than it is now, flopping over his eyes, although still razor-short on the back of his neck. Slighter, although there's the promise of strength in the width of his shoulders and the size of his hands, one of them fisted on the pillow and the other gripped onto the side of the bed. He's saying something, although Jared's never known what: with the DVD frozen his mouth is half-open, quirked up at the corner. In a moment, the other boy will move from camera right towards the bed, run a hand down Jensen's spine, casual, proprietary, and settle between his legs. This shot, though; this is Jensen on his own, pale skin against the deep blue of the sheets, banded shadows from the blinds at the window across the clean lines of his back. Jensen, smiling, relaxed. Easy and confident in his skin.
He doesn't look like that now. Confidence, yes, he has that. An efficient professionalism. But he's guarded, tight. No one touched Jensen today. No one clapped him on the shoulder or flung an arm over his shoulders, although Dave and Phil are casually affectionate with each other and Timmy, the way people are when they're physically at ease with each other. Here though, on screen, he'll stretch out his body against the sheets like a big cat, curl into touch, shiver and roll and pant. Here, in the camera's eye, he's happy.
"Oh God," Jared says, and he's got one hand on the screen as if he could reach out and touch the boy Jensen was, ten years ago. "Oh God." He's suddenly, blisteringly conscious of every time he's got off to the curve of Jensen's ass, the way he laughed, the way he'd taken what he wanted, so eager and unashamed. It's an intimacy that's one sided and shockingly personal, something entirely different from watching himself or someone he knows in the industry on screen, willingly performing for the camera. He doesn't know - and oh, fuck, he's hard: he's flushing hot and cold, he wants to run the whole DVD slowly over and over again and he wishes he'd never seen the thing. It cuts too close to the bone. He wants, with an awful, frightening clench in his belly, this boy, this man, wants so bad and knows it's never going to happen. He doesn't want an unreal celluloid image instead and yet, this is as close as he's ever going to get, and the temptation is there to own the image in a way he can never, doesn't want to, own the man.
And there's a part of Jared that thinks, greedy and arrogant, I can have him now. As if it makes a difference, this film. As if because Jensen did porn, he's easy, and that's so not true: it's not true for Jared, and for Jensen, uptight, controlled, it's got to be even less so. Yet Jared can't help the eager push of his dick against his sweats or the way his hands stroke over the screen, the way that he wonders if Jensen would arch into Jared's hands the way, on camera, he arches into his partner, if Jared too could make him bite his lip and smile at the same time, eyes clenched shut, if he'd come for Jared with his head thrown back the way he does on screen.
And Jared's got at least two inches on that guy where it really counts. He's not an xtube superstar because of his dimples.
Maybe Jensen likes small and skinny.
He sure as hell doesn't want Jared. The whole discussion's stupid. Epically stupid. Like, stupid piled on stupid.
Jesus, Jay, get your hand off of your dick.
"No I did not," Jensen says. "Do you have a problem with the way I'm directing this shoot, Tim? Because you can walk out that door right -"
"Chill!" Timmy says, rolling his eyes. "Jen. Two dudes. Bed. Camera. It's not rocket science. I sure as hell know what I'm doing and so does he. You just do your hand waving bit, we'll do the rest."
"Did you miss the memo or were you incapable of reading it?" Jensen says. "I am directing this movie. If I want you to fuck in a frilly apron you'll damn well -"
"Uh, hey, guys?" Jared says.
Jensen whips around. He's flushed, his eyes bright, hair messed into spikes. He'd looked like that last night, ten years younger, spread out on someone else's bed. His mouth is half-open with shock and Jared wants to smear his thumb over the plump curve of it, push inside, deeper, wet and hot, and he's suddenly dry mouthed and short of breath and Jensen's staring at him wide-eyed, as if he knows. As if there's something already started between them that's only going to end when Jensen's fucked out and coming dry on Jared's dick.
Then Jensen snaps shut, mouth, hands, shoulders, and snaps out, "Your call time is nine. Not half past eight. Not ten. Nine." He's not shouting, but he's pissed, his eyes narrowed and his mouth firm, and Jared's knees go weak and his eyes drop and, damn, that's the flip side. He'd fucking beg for Jensen's dick in his mouth. He'd go down for it right now, hands behind his back, mouth open, he'd be so damn good. It'd be the best apology ever.
He's drawn in a breath to say please, eyes wide, before he remembers it's not real, and he's wise enough then to keep his big mouth shut. He doesn't know what his face looks like, but it's got to be reasonably spectacular because Jensen's not looking away, and he looks... not angry. Rueful, now.
"Ah, hell," Jensen says, scrubs a hand at the back of his neck, and then says, "Sorry. Tim, sorry. I know you know what you're doing. Jared..."
"Dude," Tim says, "I get it. Jay and me, we're gonna burn up that screen for you. There's gonna be steam coming out of the cameras. I am so hot for that big dick, I am wet already. We will be awesome. Awesome!"
Jensen rolls his eyes. He says, "I hear you," dry, droll, but he's looking at Jared, and one eyebrow's just a little more arched than it was.
"What he said," Jared chokes out.
Damn it. He's not doing amateur porn on a webcam, here. He's a goddam professional with the goddam screen credits to prove it. He's the guy who fucked Misha Collins into a drooling, quivering mess and got him to shut up. (Mostly.)
Men have mewled and whimpered for Jared's dick. Seriously. On set.
"I'm sorry if -"
"You're fine," Jensen says. "You'll be perfect. Your Sam... Jared, he's not quite what I had in mind, but I like him. A lot. And Timmy's got a point there. If I start telling you what to do, it's gonna mess up what you think Sam would do. So. Hands-free directing."
Jared takes a moment. He looks at the wall of the corridor, unhelpfully blank, and then at Jensen's face, and then at Timmy's, and thinks of Jensen's voice, muttering in his ear. Second-hand porn. Jensen's voice, any way he can get it. He says, "Dude, I'd... I'd kind of like that? Otherwise it's like... I can take a guess at how Timmy's doing, but not you. And it's your film. Can you manage, I don't know, some kind of commentary?"
"Aaaand he leaps, he catches, he shoots..." Timmy's grinning. "Score!"
"Yeah," Jensen says. "I can do that."
"Did you guys forget to tell me this was a group scene?"
Jensen's already looking around. "What?" he says, and his face is honestly bemused. The robe's belted tight, but his wrists are showing, his ankles, unexpectedly fine, and the solid muscles of his calves and the strong dark hairs on his legs. His knees are endearingly bony, and it's even more obvious he's bowlegged: it's cute.
"The, uh, the..." Jared gestures. Luckily for his professional reputation, his dick thinks cute is hot. Jensen in something that could be stripped off with one good pull at a loosely tied belt. Yeah, he's on board with that one.
"Uh, yeah?" Jensen says, and looks down, pulling a face. "Is there a problem?"
"No," Jared says honestly.
The camerawoman flashes him a grin. "Equality, dude," she says.
Oh fuck. "Does that mean you're...?"
"Nah, that's just us," Timmy says. "Although if you asked nice they would. Jen, you'd go bare for Jay-man here, wouldn't you?"
"I'm... no," Jensen says. "No."
"Damn," Jared says, and he thinks it's under his breath but Jensen glares at him hard enough to make it obvious he was overheard.
"We are not derailing this movie over bathrobes," Jensen says. "Are we clear?"
"Uh-huh," Timmy says, and Jared nods.
"Right. We did walk through, and Timmy, we went through this again last night. Jared, are you good to go? You happy with Sam here - don't play it too straight, yeah? It might be his first time but this guy is not naive."
"I'm good," Jared says.
"'Kay. I know we covered this in the contract and Kate ran you through it at walk through, but let's go again. Cut means cut: you stop. I don't care if your balls are bursting, you stop. And if you don't there's a fire extinguisher by the door with your name on it, and we'll use it. Condoms under the pillow, lube in both drawers, water down by the headboard. Play safe, guys. Timmy, Ace is spotting for you, Jared, you've got me. Yell, wave, you want out, we'll stop."
"If the fire alarm goes," Jensen says, and Timmy starts sniggering. "You get yourself the hell out of here in a safe and secure fashion and you take a robe with you. If you forget, one of the team will provide you with one. Are we clear on this point?"
"Yes," Timmy says.
"Yes," Jared says.
"So," Jensen says, and then he sighs and looks down and balls his hands in the pockets of his robe. Then he looks up, serious. "Guys, I am stoked for this scene. You guys looked awesome on the rushes, absolutely great, and I know you can pull it off this time too. Timmy, I don't need to tell you you're hot, dude, you know it. Jared..."
Yeah, he's hung. It's not like his screen cred hangs off his dick or anything.
"Flash that smile, yeah? You are scorching, dude."
"Really?" Jared says, warm all the way through.
"Yeah," Jensen says, and grins. It's wicked, that grin, sly and knowing. It curves up at the corners, promises things that are messy and sticky and hotter than any one grin should have the right to own.
Jared's doomed. His heart misses a beat, his dick jerks against the toweling, and he's opening his mouth before he hits brain, engage which is always....
"Good to know," he says, and he can't, he does, ouch, he looks Jensen up and down, once, slowly, like it's allowed. Like he could walk both of them over to the bed, like the cameras are there for Jensen, like he could run his hands up and under that robe and strip Jensen down and tumble him onto the mattress, make him laugh, make him whimper, make him scream, make him smile the way he did in Auberge. No fucking breaks, no script. His dick, Jensen's ass, his hands, Jensen's mouth, and oh God he'd kill to hear Jensen beg for his dick for real. Looking like he does now, his eyes wide and dark and that flush creeping along his cheekbones and over his chest, looking like he would, like he really would say yes, say, God, yes, Jay, fuck yeah, get in me. For real.
Timmy curls a hand around Jared's shoulder and says, "Man up, Ackles."
"You've got five minutes," Jensen says, short, and turns his back.
"Fuck," Jared says, with feeling.
Timmy's voice is amused. "Told you," he says. Then, "Good to go?"
"Yeah," Jared sighs. "Sorry," he adds.
"Eh, don't mind me," Timmy says. "Kind of entertained, over here. Plus, I like Jen, you know? Watching him tie himself up in knots in a good way rates mega bonus points in my book." He grins, swift, pretty. "Gets you going. And dayam, do I want to ride on that dick before he gets a ring on it. C'mon, big guy. Sock it to me, 'kay?"
Oh, he's there. His hands, his dick. But for the first time he's horribly aware of every layer that goes into himself on screen. Jared the porn star, the guy with the big grin and the big dick. Sam, with his half-fascinated appreciation, a little more detached than the boy should be, like he's quantifying every move against some other standard. Jared playing Sam, trying to get into Sam's headspace, half there, half watching. It's Sam's hands petting Timmy's back, but it's Jared watching himself being Sam, and for the first time ever on camera he's not just putting on a show for the punters and checking angles and making sure his hands don't get in the way, he's absolutely aware of both cameras and the sound guy. The rustle of the sheets, the way Timmy moves, Jensen's absolutely silent presence just out of his eye line, his own confusion. It's not fair to Timmy, doing his damnedest to act for both of them, and it's not fair to Jensen's film, but Jared's just going through the motions and he knows it. Everything he does is an echo of something he's done on some other set on some other film, repetitive and tired. He struggles through, ticking off the motions, false groan, false face, porn star pout, empty and ridiculous. Acting out isn't helping: he just feels worse. It's not Sam on screen, it isn't even Jared. It's some other puppet, flat and characterless.
He's wasting screen time. He looks up, looks for Jensen, ready to call the whole thing off, and Jensen says behind him, "Jay."
He stops. Eyes closed, head thrown back and tilted to that voice. He can feel sweat break out over his shoulders, goose bumps down the line of his back.
"Yeah, that's it. Jay. You're good. I gotcha." That's Jensen's hand on his back, got to be, broad, warm. "Jay, we're gonna try something else. Pull out, 'kay? Get your hand on your dick for me? Condom off."
On the bed, Timmy rolls over, piles up the pillows, watches.
"Stay still," Jensen says, low, "Don't move. Hand on your dick, Jared, slow stroke, let the camera follow... yeah, that's it. Again, slower. Again. Yeah, that's good, like it. Pull up a bit, let's see your balls, Jesus dude, smooth, if you waxed I don't even wanna think about it. Love it. Hand down... yeah, yeah, gorgeous. Go on. Slow, just for me. Shit, yeah, beautiful."
Oh hell yeah does he want Jensen to watch. Jensen wants slow, Jared can do slow, easy strokes, little twist to the top, hand off to one side, look. Look at me. Hard for you, Jen, and Jared curves his arm and his shoulders and his back into the stroke, bends his knees, and groans. He's more turned on than he's ever been on camera before and Jensen doesn't move, four fingers and one thumb and the palm of his hand flat on Jared's back.
"Yeah, yeah, good, love it, c'mon Jay, show me that dick - you wet yet? You wet for me, Jay?"
He is now. Little blurt of precome that makes him shiver: he touches his fingers to it, licks them off, showy, and Jensen's hand tightens.
"Fuck. Fucking gorgeous, Jay. Do that again." Edge to Jensen's voice.
There's a white thread of precome over Jared's fingers, stretching out, sticky wet over his thumb. Hand off, he lets it thin, slow, feels it break, mouths at his fingers like they're Jensen's dick, mouth open, eyes closed. Salt on his tongue.
"Show me what you can do. Make me want it, huh? C'mon Jay."
Timmy's rolling back over on the bed, grinning. Not the person Jared wants, but the one he's going to fuck, showtime for the man behind him. There's a condom pushed into his hand: he rips the packet open with his teeth, rolls it down eyes closed with his finger and thumb, pretty picture for Jensen.
"Jen? Gonna let your boy off the leash?" Timmy's voice, low, but Jared's listening for someone else.
"Aw, Tim, you hurting over there?" Wicked, dirty tone to that voice. "Show me. You're on. Roll those hips for us. Work for it. Nice ass, kid, wriggle it for me, arch that back... great. Awesome. Keep going. Jared, you wanna step in here?"
Head tilted away from the camera, Timmy drops him a wink and slides his knees an inch or two further apart, but it's the push of Jensen's hand in the small of his back that makes Jared line up and push in, real slow, one hand over Timmy's back and the other well back, out of eye line. The mobile camera's right up there, and Jared's watching it, knowing Jensen's watching the same thing, his dick pushing into Timmy's ass, tight ring of muscle giving way for him, pretty pink stretch, yeah, Jen, I'd fuck you so good, better than anyone else you've ever had, just watch. Pull out, slow, and Timmy's trying to push back, failing. You'd want it just as bad, Jen, swear to you. Watch. Slow slide back, heat around his dick almost as hot as Jensen's hand on his back, and Timmy's head is back and he's panting, hands fisting in the sheets. Could be you, Jensen. Could be you under my hands, this moment. Careful, Jared stays where he is, smooths down Timmy's back, pets him, imagines freckles and broader shoulders. Has anyone ever done this for you, Jen, fucked you hard and made you want it that bad? Could do that for you, Jen. Could be that guy.
He's not that guy. He's Sam, fascinated, enthralled, but not... no. Not in love. Sam knows love, a deep well of want that's older and darker than anything he's got to offer Rick. But it's good, here, between them, now, with Jen's fingertips still branding Sam's back.
Jared takes a deep breath, bends down, braces a hand on Timmy's shoulder, and taps two fingers. Wanna play? You good?
"Go for it," Timmy says.
Jared does. Lovely long strokes, beautiful rhythm to it, nailing that ass every damn time. Timmy writhes and begs for him, sweet, instant response: Jen would be tougher. Jen would have his jaw clenched, not a whimper, would make Jared work for the groan Timmy gives up instantly. Jen would smack Jared's hand off of his dick, privilege not yet earned, but Timmy just shivers and moans and clutches at the sheets.
"Up," Jensen says, his voice low and harsh. "Pull him up, Jay. Let's see him. C'mon, kid, yeah."
Pulled up, Timmy comes up off the bed in a lovely long line that drapes his back against Jared's chest, thighs spread, head back, and Jared doesn't miss a stroke. He needs both hands now to hold Timmy's hips just where he needs them, but Timmy's got his own hand on his dick for the camera. He's shaking, fingers gripped hard, milking precome.
"Gonna come for me?" Jared hisses, loud enough. "Gonna come on my dick? C'mon. C'mon."
Timmy does. Curls up with the force of it, hand flung out, come stippling his belly, his chest, high and fast, and he does scream, a banshee shriek that makes Jared wince even as he's starting to grin.
"Attaboy," Jensen says behind him, and then, "Cut, damn it, cut, get that camera off me."
Careful, Jared pulls out, easy, gentle, lays Timmy down on the bed and keeps a hand on him, but it's Jensen he turns around to see. Jensen with his eyes blown and his dick tenting the front of the robe, bottom lip swollen like he's had his teeth there.
Jared doesn't say anything. Doesn't need to, wanna fuck you now has got to be written all over his face. It's Jensen who looks away. Then, he looks back. He's got guts: he must know what he looks like.
"Thanks," Jared says. Thanks for the hand, the voice. Thanks for letting me know I'm not on my own, here. Holds Jensen's eyes, nods.
Then he turns back to Timmy, gives him a grin and a friendly pat. "You good?"
"Yeah," Timmy says, slow and low. He's still smiling. "You wanna do your bit? I'm not moving. Not for the next two weeks."
"Jensen?" Jared asks.
"Give us five?" It's the sound guy, Kleine. They're shifting the static camera, angling down.
"Sure," Jared says, and reaches for the water by the bed, passes it to Timmy. Waits. Pulls on his robe, sits on the edge of the bed, watches Jensen fuss with the cameras, waits some more. He could do with coffee. He could do with a hug, right now. What a fucking stupid thing to get paid for doing. He pats his own dick in consolation. Thinks, idly, this is the last time I'm gonna do this. Wonders without even thinking about it where that thought came from, watches Jensen some more. Pats Timmy's ankle, guilty, because it wasn't Timmy he was fucking and that's just plain rude.
"You doing okay?"
"Honestly?" Jared turns around, gives Timmy a tired smile. "Not sure. Ask me when we're done. But you were great. Thanks."
Timmy pulls a face. "Yeah," he says.
"Sorry I faded out on you," Jared says. "It wasn't you."
"I know," Timmy says. Unscrews the water, tips the bottle up, drinks. "Appreciated the effort, though," he says.
"Jared?" Jensen says.
Jared whips around.
"You want five minutes?"
Jared looks down. He's still mostly hard. "Nah," he says. Looks up, big eyes. "Gonna come give me a hand?" he asks.
"Dude," Jensen says, and shakes his head.
"C'mon," Jared coaxes. Runs a hand gently along the length of his dick, feels it heat and fill. "Please."
He doesn't expect anything to happen. But Jensen does move, walks forward. Stands for a moment looking down, frowning, and then sits on the bed. Curls himself against Jared's back, teasing warm brush of toweling and his legs crooked up by Jared's hips. He says, "Angle?" and his voice is low and heavy in Jared's ear.
"You're clear," the woman with the fixed camera says.
"Go," Jensen says, and his hand finds its place on Jared's back, his chin tucked into Jared's shoulder. He's weighty, heated, and his breath smells of coffee, and Jared's smiling as he jerks off, honestly, just the way he'd do it at home, the way Sam would do it, and Jensen watches every stroke.
He doesn't go in the office, just leans against the door and waits. Jensen's dressed, button down, jeans. His hair's still wet. He's frowning over a sheaf of papers.
Jensen's eyebrows come up first, then his eyes. He puts the pen down.
"You want me to leave?" Jared asks, quiet. "I don't even know," he says. "I've never..." He has to look away, suck in a breath through his teeth. "I don't want to screw up for you," he says. "But that was a piece of shit, man. You can get someone else."
"I don't think so," Jensen says. He smiles, a tight curl to the corner of his mouth, ironic. "It's good film, Jared."
"Right," Jared says tightly. It's good film because Jensen had to fucking hold his hand all the way through the shoot, and that's not cool. He's got to be on the ball for tomorrow's scene, and he's not. He's so fucking scared he's going to screw it up again.
Jensen's got his head on one side. He's frowning, thinking, and Jared wonders miserably if this is the moment Jensen does think twice. There are any number of guys younger and prettier than Jared and most of them would work for free if it got them on an Ackles set. He's not even sure why Jensen picked him.
Then Jensen says, "It's not the way I planned it. But I've been thinking about Sam. There's something about the way we shot that first scene with Timmy, and today... like Sam's... eh," Jensen says. "I wanted to make this boy meets boy movie, you know? But I'm starting to wonder if I'm making something different here and that's not a bad thing. You and Timmy. You got sparks all right, but..."
"It's not like Sam doesn't care," Jared says. "But it feels like... he knows it's not real? I didn't want to say," he says. "I know that's not what you wanted to shoot. When I read the script I thought -" He stops.
"I thought you wanted to remake Auberge." Jared says quietly.
There's a moment when he thinks he really has put his foot in his mouth. But then Jensen ducks his head, shakes it, a reluctant grin pulling at the corner of his mouth. "I guess I asked for that one," he says, almost to himself.
"Hey," Jared says. "I get that you don't talk about it, I know Mike doesn't know, it's not like I'd mention it on set or anything, I swear -"
"I know that," Jensen says.
"But you must have been, what, eighteen? People change. What you thought then, it's gonna be different now, and Sam's not... he doesn't feel like that boy? He's older. More... more lonely. He doesn't trust people the way the kid in that film does. It's not the same. Not that - I mean, I messed up today, but, I kind of get Sam -" Jared grinds to a halt. Jensen doesn't need to hear this. He wrote Sam.
"Okay," Jensen says. "I'm listening. And for fuck's sake, stop propping up the door and come inside."
After half an hour, Jensen makes coffee. An hour later, they're both of them on their knees in the storeroom, searching for DVDs to illustrate what they're talking about, laughing, and it's nearly midnight before Jensen says, "Jay, no, we're shooting tomorrow, we're not watching another one, I don't care how much tension there is in the setup. Go home."
Sprawled out on AP's incredibly comfortable couch, Jared just blinks at him. There are two pizza boxes and four mugs and a half-empty bucket of popcorn on the table, and Jensen's all loose, relaxed, his sweater off and balled up under his head and his smile soft. Jared doesn't want to go anywhere.
He says, "Can sleep here, can't I? Blankets in the store. Saw 'em." He yawns, unselfconscious. "Comfy."
"You'll regret it," Jensen says, but he's still smiling.
"Will not," Jared mutters, closes his eyes ostentatiously. "You can stay too," he suggests. "Won't lay a finger on you. Not even thinking about it. Just. Like the way you smile."
"Huh," Jensen says.
Jared doesn't remember anything else until Mike sticks a mug of coffee under his nose in the morning. Jensen was wrong. He feels awesome. Sure, his neck's a little stiff, and a shower's going to be a good thing, but he made Jensen laugh last night, made him sit in the half dark and talk about shooting Auberge, about the way the camera works, about Sam and Rick and then about shooting the first films for AP and how he'd set out wanting to change the industry. Jared pointed out that he had, and then backed up his argument with clips, and Jensen had been smiling and demurring and modest until Jared backed him into a corner and then he'd come out swinging.
"You wanna tell me what happened last night?" Mike says quietly, and he's so amused Jared sits up before he makes grabby hands for the mug. And then freezes.
Jensen's curled up asleep on the rug. Like Jared, he's wrapped in AP's blankets, but he's curled up tight as a caterpillar, only his ruffled hair and his eyebrows showing, and even as Jared watches he snuffles a little and buries his nose further down. He's so damn cute. He looks so young, like this.
"We were talking," Jared says softly. "It got late."
"Uh-huh," Mike says.
"About the film," Jared says. He fortifies himself with coffee, blinks down at Jensen, sleeping. He can't help, damn it, the smile that creeps across his face. It's ridiculous. He'd had fun last night, goofing around like he was still in high school, and Jensen off the clock had a wicked, dirty sense of humor and the kind of comic timing a talk show host would give their right hand to own. He's... he's something special, Jensen Ackles.
"Nothing happened," Jared tells Jensen's friend. "Nothing important."
"Right," Mike says.
The pillows are fluffy, the sheets some ridiculous thread count, and the mattress reassuringly firm, but the static camera's blind eye is bent over both of them and the light's intrusively bright. Jared's stupidly grateful for the sheet. He kind of feels overexposed, uncomfortable, and half of it's him and half of it's Sam, waking up with the wrong guy.
"'Kay?" Timmy says, looking down.
Jared smiles. He stretches out his arm and Timmy curls beside him, a false intimacy that both of them can feel. Relax, Jay, Jared tells himself. It's just film. It's just a shoot. You can do this. It's what they pay you for.
Mostly, though, they pay him to bang the hell out of some other dude. Not this, this sweet, faux, lovey-dovey early morning cuddling.
"So," Timmy whispers. "Rumor has it you and our great director had a hot date last night."
That's not helping. Jared looks up at the ceiling, mutters, "It wasn't like that."
"No?" Timmy says, and makes himself comfortable against Jared's shoulder. He's lighter than Jensen would be, bonier, too thin, too... not. "C'mon," he says. "You write my epic true love out of the film, you cut my scenes..."
"What?" Jared says.
"Oh, he didn't tell you?" Timmy says. "We lost the hotel, dude. He wants to shoot some arty thing where you stare out the window and moon after the one that got away."
"Oh," Jared says. "Sorry."
"Doesn't bother me," Timmy says. "Still pays. Shame about the handcuffs, though. So. What've you got, Jay? Does he put out on a first date? Is that ass as hot as it looks?"
"Guys," Jensen says, dry. "We can all hear you."
"Jen," Timmy says, shifting up on an elbow and glaring over the sheets, "If you turned down the padacock, you're -"
"That's enough," Jared says, and puts his hand over Timmy's mouth.
"Thanks," Jensen says. "Timmy... I love ya, kid, but not right now. Get your head in the game, 'kay? And Jay... keep it together, yeah? Okay, three, two -"
Jared's cell phone rings.
"What the fuck," Jensen says, as the crew groan. "Who the hell - Jared. Jared, get back in that bed. Jared -"
"No, seriously, I gotta," Jared says, scrambling. It's his personal phone, the one that would have been in the locker if he'd been back to the hotel and like, worn what he was supposed to and, hell, rung Sara last night like he meant to and - "Check in," he says, and manages to catch the last ring. "Sara, hey, s'me, I'm sorry, everything's fine, I swear, I forgot last night, there was this thing with Jensen..."
He stops. Looks around. Everyone is staring at him. Everyone.
"Gotta go," Jared says, and snaps the phone shut. Jensen's staring at him, his eyes widening. But it's the camerawoman, Bridget, who says, "Check in? Like, that's your safety call?"
Jensen's going white.
"Yeah," Jared says miserably. "Look, can we... sorry. I'm really sorry, okay? I didn't know you guys were going to be... After Hallows..." Hole's getting deeper every word he says.
"Fine," Jensen says. "Fine. Now. Can we shoot?"
"Yeah," Jared says, and follows Mike through into his office. Closes the door, and waits.
"So," Mike says, and he's a long way now from the blonde twink who tried to pick Jared up in a bar in January, uptight, shoulders hunched. "So... look, it's not that... sit down," he says. "I'm going to talk about Hallows. And Angel."
"It's not like that," Jared says quickly. "I mean, I know you guys now, I know Timmy and Dave and Phil, I know you're not gonna..."
"Strap you up in a gimp suit and drop you off the pier?" Mike says. "Hell, I don't blame you. If you'd said to me two years ago AP'd be doing hardcore I'd have laughed in your face. So would Jen. But it's... Shit," he says. "None of us would have chosen to make those films. We did them because we had to. And don't ask me why, because that's Jensen's business and if he wants to tell you, he will. But you need to know that... it's not his thing. And there's no way we'd drop anyone into something like that without knowing it was something they were into. Hell, half of those guys were from Dave's bike club, and most of them are straight. Maybe most of them," Mike says, and smiles, just a little. "So... yeah. Ask him about it, if you have to. Just, take it easy on him, yeah? It's not a good memory."
It's not just Jensen. He's learning so much from the AP crew, the sheer professionalism of Jensen's regular camera team and his lighting guys, the way Mike organizes the set and his volunteers, Rosie... even the catering crew, who turn out to be Milly and Laura, college friends of Kate's. At night, when he talks to Sara, it's about the way Jensen works, and although Sara's listening both of them know SG has neither the size nor the resources to film the same way.
On Friday night, he goes out with the crew. It's a tiny, dark cellar bar over on Third, with a glorious selection of artisan beer and a soundtrack of quiet, aching blues. Mike's there, Kate, Dave and Phil are slow dancing in a corner, Bridget's doing shots with the two guys from Wardrobe - Raj and Wills - and Jared gets caught up in a conversation about nationality and porn, identity, what's legal where, and finally, whether Jack Wrangler really topped all the time, which is about par for the course on an after-shoot evening. It's only when he's standing at the bar for his second round that he realizes Jensen's there too, propped quietly against the bar with his cell phone out.
"Hey," Jared says, four bottles of beer down and counting, a pleasant buzz that means his grin's probably a little a wider than it should be.
"Jared," Jensen acknowledges.
"Jensen," Jared says happily, and for a moment he just grins down, big, stupid klutz that he is, but he's lucky enough to be exactly where he wants to be right now. "Jensen," he says. "Jen."
Jensen huffs. "Jared," he says, "How many-"
"I wish you liked me," Jared says. "It's kinda sad. I like you so much." He blinks down, and he's sober enough to look at Jensen's eyes, widening, not his mouth. "I've wanted to make a film with you for so long," he says. "You don't know. And I'm here, and it's awesome, you must know that, right, but I wish..."
"I do like you," Jensen says.
"Good," Jared says. "That's good, right? 'Cause I kinda feel like I should be apologising to you all the time. Like, I'm sorry I fucked up your script, and I'm sorry I screwed up everything I've ever said to you, and -"
"Jared," Jensen says. "Shut up."
"Shit," Jared says. "Do I need to apologise for that too?"
Jensen's shaking his head, but he can't stop the rueful smile that's tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"So," Jared says. "So... are we talking? Because I missed you, dude, not like I want to be BFF's or anything, because that would be kind of creepy, but, if you wanted to, maybe, hang out, or I'm totally up for watching stuff with you, or maybe pizza - you like pizza, don't you? Everyone likes..."
"Am I talking too much?"
"Maybe," Jensen says.
"Sorry," Jared says, opens his mouth, and closes it again. He ducks his head, leans against the bar, and watches Jensen drink his beer.
It's kind of nice, being quiet.
"I know," Jared says, and smiles weakly at the security guard. Jensen's hanging off his shoulder like a limp dishrag. A very pretty one, all pink and flustered and smiling, but, still, limp.
"I work here."
"Yup," Jared says, and tries to drop Jensen on the couch. He's got reason to know it's more than adequately comfortable. Jensen, though, isn't having any of it: he clings, hangs tucked into Jared's hoodie, head bent into his chest. "C'mon. Jen," Jared says helplessly, because really, this isn't where he meant to be at the end of the evening and he's sure it's not where Jensen meant to be either, but Jensen's not helping his case by cuddling in like an overgrown kitten. "Leggo," he says. "Please. I'm gonna go get stuff." But he has to curl Jensen's fingers off one by one, and the pout is almost irresistible. Jared... 'Jay, no,' Jared thinks. 'No.'
He does not manage to resist the way Jensen clings to him when he returns, triumphant with blankets. "Thought you weren't coming back," Jensen says, muffled, and Jared can't help running a hand through his hair. "Thought you'd gone," Jensen says, and there's an ache to the words that makes Jared pull him in tighter, cuddle him closer, cradle Jensen's head in his hand and wish for... a bed. A few windmills to tilt at, a dragon, a suit of armor.
He'd make for a damn grubby knight.
The last thing Jared thinks before he goes to sleep is, this is going to be awkward as fuck in the morning.
But it's not. It's kind of awesome. Jensen in the morning is sleepy, disorientated, and cute as fuck with his unfocused eyes and bedhead, just like Jared imagined. And he's a cuddler. Jared's almost certain Jensen doesn't even know that's Jared's chest he's curled up on, and by the time Jared's managed to untangle their legs and roll Jensen into his own blanket, Jensen's almost asleep again anyway. He goes out for coffee and bagels and snacks and Advil - and while he's buying, a couple of toothbrushes and some toothpaste - and comes back to find Jensen just about awake enough to hug his Americano with the fervent grip of an addict. Luckily, Jared's bought two. And by the time Jensen's managed to work out where he is and with whom, Jared's got a stack of DVDs and a plan.
It's a good plan, involving the couch, the kind of black and white movies where everyone wears all their clothes all the time, and a resolution not to discuss anything to do with work. Unlike many of Jared's plans, it actually works. And when Jensen wakes up for real - about fiveish, and Jared makes a mental note never to suggest shots on a work night - it's kind of too late to do anything except order in and set up the Wii.
It must be midnight when Jared puts down the controller and lets his hand ghost over Jensen's hair. He's sprawled out on the couch: Jensen's propped up against it, his head on the cushion that's tucked against Jared's thigh. It's so comfortable it's almost domestic, like they've done this before and they're going to do it again, like in a moment Jensen's going to turn his head and smile and Jared's going to give him a hand up and then they're going to go to bed together, curl in all warm and snuggly, and then wake up in the morning and do it all over again.
Jared wants that.
Instead, he says, "Can we... it's none of my business. But. Something happened, didn't it? When you shot Hallows and Angel? Can I ask you about it?"
Jensen closes his eyes. His hands tighten on the controller, but on screen, disregarded, his character crashes out of the game. There's a moment when Jared thinks, 'Shit, plan B...' and doesn't have one... and then Jensen says, "You've seen Auberge, right?"
"Yes," Jared says.
"Okay," Jensen says. "So. That other guy, that was Stu. Stuart. He's... shit. Stu... Auberge was his idea. Filming it, that was all me, but the idea, that was Stu. He loved it. He would have... hell, he would have shown the thing in Times Square if he'd ever got his hands on the film. And... Hell, Jay, I don't know. It was kind of cool, that kind of exposure. I mean, seeing yourself on screen? That's a kind of affirmation you're not gonna get anywhere else. You must know. But... there were guys I didn't know coming up and saying... stuff," Jensen says uncomfortably.
"I know," Jared says.
"But. I kept thinking about how I could do it better. I wanted to make movies, not just porn. And filming costs - we needed film stock, we needed - Christ, we were starting from nothing. If I knew then what I know now, we'd never have got off the ground. But it was Stu's money behind AP, when we started. And that was okay, because... it was okay until it all fell apart. Then he wanted his money back, and he wanted... hell, he wanted us to make the kind of films he was interested in. So I made them, gave him the rights, sold the house, paid him off... it was like, the most extended divorce ever. But he got what he wanted. I hope..." Jensen says, and his lip curls. "I hope he's happy with it. I got AP. It was... it was bruising," Jensen says, and rolls his head back against the cushion, eyes closed.
"You guys were together a while?" Jared says, and his hand is on Jensen's hair again, soft. Jensen doesn't seem to mind, even rolls a little into the curve of Jared's palm.
Jensen snorts. "First boyfriend," he says. "Stupid, huh?"
"Could've worked," Jared says. "You didn't know."
"Fucking right, there," Jensen says, and snorts. "He must have had every twink in NY through our bed before I - shit. Shit, Jay, just - I didn't say that. It never happened," Jensen says fiercely, and he's moving, curling up on himself, all tight shoulders and hurt. "Just -"
"Eh," Jared says, and he's off the couch, on his knees, wrapping Jensen up, holding him close. "Jen. Jen," he says helplessly, and he's so fiercely angry and hurting for Jensen and protective and miserable and hopeless and kind of scared and shamingly happy that he gets be the guy holding Jensen right now.
"I don't do this," Jensen mutters, head down, hand fisted on Jared's shoulder. "I am stronger than this. Fuck him. Fuck -"
"Babe," Jared says. "I know you are."
"Don't babe me," Jensen says, fiercely watery.
"'Kay," Jared tells him. "You're the boss," he says, and holds on.
"Nothing," Jared says uncomfortably. "Nothing. Talked. I thought he was okay."
"Fix it," Mike says, and shoves him back out the door with a T-shirt two sizes too small. Jared's too rattled to change.
Even Dave, in for his voiceovers, only gives him a sympathetic look and a clap on the shoulder, which worries Jared so much he completely fails to read through that day's script alterations. So it's one hell of a shock when he arrives on set to find that they're not, as he had assumed, filming him looking moodily out of the window and thinking of whoever it is Sam really wants (somehow, Sam's dream boy looks awfully like Jensen) but back at the hotel.
"I thought we weren't shooting this one?" he asks, lost.
"Did you think we were shooting horny housewives?" Jensen says, clipped. "There's a script, Jared. Read it."
"Sure," Jared says. "But -"
"Nothing," Jared says, and shuffles behind Bridget to scan the pages, and, oh fuck, it is the scene in the hotel he thought Jensen had written out five days ago. He's not up for this. He hadn't even expected - shit, shit, shit, Jared thinks, and tries to remember if he checked for stray hairs and pimples this morning before or after he'd - fuck - jerked off in the shower. Again. It's entirely possible he's literally not going to be up for this. For the first time in his professional career he thinks longingly of Viagra, which is not going to happen on half an hour's notice on an AP set - he might not have read the dailies, but he has read the contract. He's really not in the mood, right now.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Jensen yells at one of the costume crew, "Do the words closed set mean anything -"
"Hey," Timmy says.
"Hey," Jared offers, and waves the script miserably.
"I know," Timmy says. "Dude, I didn't know either. Found out this morning."
"Me too," Jared says, and has to add, "Tim. Look. I'm gonna try, but I had no idea we were scening today. I'm really sorry, it's not you -"
Tim's laughing. He says, "You're not the only one who had a fun weekend. I am not looking forward to today, and neither is my ass. Take it easy, 'kay?"
Jared snorts. "Be lucky if I can get it up at all," he says.
Snide, cutting, Jensen says, "I was under the impression you were professionals. You wanna let me know now if I'm wrong?"
He's all buttons today. Black shirt, done up right to the neck, black jeans, black boots, narrowed eyes. This isn't the man who slept in Jared's arms: it's the man who let him wake up alone.
"What the hell is your problem?" Jared asks.
"Maybe I just can't get the staff," Jensen says.
"Fine," Jared says, tight lipped, and looks at Tim. "We gonna do this?"
"Yup," Tim says, and looks at Jensen. "Jen, you owe me for this one," he says.
Jensen doesn't even nod.
It takes them an hour to get naked. Seriously. "Cut!" Jensen yells. "Tim, elbows. Jared, get your hands out of the way and keep them there. Mike, where the hell did you get that shirt? I said khaki. In what world does khaki translate to blue? Get it off."
"Cut. Jared, you're meant to be an actor. Please try for a little enthusiasm. Tim - cut it with the wisecracks. You're not funny."
"Cut. Is this amateur hour on xhamster? Did I ask you to - why do I even bother? Take five," Jensen says.
"Oh thank fuck for that," Timmy says, sighs, rolls his eyes, and looks at Jared. "Will you talk to him or shall I?" he says.
"Guys," Bridget mutters, "It's not you. You're doing fine. Want me to get Mike to have a word?"
"I think he is," John says. He's the other cameraman, quietly efficient, the man who translates Jensen's ideas into film, and Jared's never seen the man rushed or upset. But he's angry now, pale and tense. "This isn't the scene we were supposed to be shooting," he says.
Over in the corner, Mike's got Jensen cornered against the wall. The set of his shoulders is nothing but furious, but Jensen's snapping back, mouth pursed, chin high. Mike throws his hands in the air. Jensen shakes his head, sharp and negative. Mike turns around, looks at Jared, says something that has Jensen rolling his eyes and pushing away.
"Places," Jensen yells, striding forward. "I said five, not twenty!"
"Jensen?" Timmy says, taking one for the team. "Jen, I don't think -"
"Whose film is this?" Jensen says. "Can we just get this over with? Now?"
"Jen," Jared says carefully, "This isn't working today. We can't give you what you want. Is there something else we can do, come back to this tomorrow fresh?" It's going to cost AP money, he knows, but the atmosphere on set is poisonous and Jensen must be aware.
"I don't think you... Jesus, Jared, just get on with it, will you?" Jensen says, and he sounds so very tired.
Jared says, "No."
"What?" Jensen says.
Jared says, "No. I didn't sign up for this, Jen. Neither did Timmy. Whatever it is you've got stuck in your head -"
'Shit. Shit,' Jared thinks, and looks at Jensen. Really looks at him, the white-knuckled grip of his fingers on the clipboard, the closed-in brace of his shoulders and the awkward turn of his head, the shadows under his eyes and the thinned, tight line of his mouth. The man he's looking at is nothing like the confident, laughing Jensen he knows from the first week of shooting. Jensen looks haunted.
"What the hell happened?" Jared says. "Is this - don't tell me - fuck, Jen, what are you doing to yourself?"
"What?" Jensen says again, and his eyes are widening, and the clipboard's coming up, defensive, and Jared -
He's been known to have occasional flashes of brilliance. He says, "Jen. You can't sabotage a relationship you haven't even started."
And Jensen looks away.
Jared's right. "Oh, for fuck's sake," he says, and walks forward.
They're ten feet from the bed and Jensen walks backwards the whole way. He fumbles with the clipboard, drops it, snatches his baseball hat from his head, opens his mouth to say something and closes it again, and Jared tackles him around the waist and tumbles them both down. Neither of them are lightweights: they bounce, limbs entangled. He swears Jensen squeaks, but Jared says - and he's smiling now, he can't stop smiling - he says, "I get to kiss you now, right?" and does, before Jensen can say no. Cups Jensen's face in his free hand and tilts it up, bends down with his eyes open and fits his mouth against Jensen's so very carefully, so gently. "Is this okay?" Jared says, against Jensen's mouth, dips in again. "Tell me it's okay, please," he says.
"Jay," Jensen says, on a gasp.
Jared kisses him again, just because, watches Jensen close his eyes and open them again, and that's Jensen's hands on his back tugging him down and Jensen's legs wrapping around his hips and dear God, he didn't know, no one told him anything could feel like this. His heart's pounding, he wants everything, now, bare skin to bare skin, no cameras, no illusions, Jensen. "Can I?" he asks, and then, "What do you want? Jen, please -"
He's not used to being manhandled in bed, but Jensen shoves him over and climbs on top just fine, his mouth reddened and his hair spiked and his hands tugging at the buttons of his shirt. His eyes - Jensen doesn't seem to know where to look, Jared's chest, his mouth, his eyes, his hands: he's reassuringly heavy, solid, real, and Jared stares up in mazed, happy disbelief as Jensen strips off his shirt and unbuckles his belt.
"You," Jensen says. "You'll do fine."
It makes Jared laugh, but his hands have already ripped open the belt from his robe and are covering Jensen's own shaky attempt to strip down. "I've got you," he's saying. "Don't worry. Don't -"
That's the moment when Jensen gives up on his own jeans and takes a firm, possessive grip on Jared's dick. "Jesusfuck," Jared yelps, arching helplessly off the bed into Jensen's hands, because nothing, nothing has ever stopped his breath and burned into his skin like that before. His balls are tight, his dick's so hard it hurts, and he's, damn it, no, Jared thinks, teeth clenched, every muscle strained, no -
He comes. Ten seconds after Jensen lays hands on him for the first time, Jared comes harder than he's ever done in his life before, devastated. He's almost wailing, sucking in air, come stippling his chest and Jensen's hand, and he can't stop. The aftershocks are fierce: he's shaking, dragging Jensen down, and holding on as tight as he can. "Jen," Jared says helplessly, panting. "Can't. You."
"I'm kinda flattered," Jensen says, dry, into Jared's ear, but his own cock is hard and wet against Jared's hip and his thighs are shaking.
"C'mon," Jared manages, and heaves Jensen up until he can squeeze his own hand around Jensen's cock and, clumsy, uncoordinated, gets in three whole strokes.
Jensen gasps, almost silent, "Coming -" and does.
It makes Jared laugh. Makes him curl as much of himself around Jensen as possible, hold him close, whisper, "Sorry," and "I'll do better by you, I swear," and "Want you so much, you don't know." And Jensen holds on just as tight.
"Er, guys..." Timmy says, hesitant.
"Tim," Jensen says into Jared's shoulder. "Get the fuck out of here."
"Sure thing, boss." It's Bridget's voice, deeply amused, but even while Jared's untangling the sheet and pulling it up the door opens and closes, and he can hear the lock engage.
"That," Jensen says quietly, "Wasn't..."
"I had it all planned," Jared says regretfully, shuffling so he can look down and meet Jensen's eyes. "Like, after filming. There was going to be dating. I had a list."
Jensen's smiling, soft. He says, "We can do that."
"And I'm still not shooting this scene," Jared says. "Live with it. Unless it's gonna be you."
Rolling over, Jensen blinks up, still smiling, eyes still a little dazed, mouth soft. "Okay," he says.
"I mean," Jared says, "If you need the cameras, that's fine, I can do that, but... you're gonna say yes to anything right now, aren't you?"
"Probably," Jensen says.
"Cool," Jared says. "Because I want everything. Like, kissing in the rain and holding hands at the movies and weekends and waking up in the same bed. I want to lick my come out your ass and I want to be there when you write the next script and I want to know your mom's cookie recipe and... Jen?" Jared asks.
Jensen's looking down, but his hand's pressed over Jared's heart, heavy and warm.
"Trying to find the words to ask you home," Jensen says.
"Yeah?" Jared says.
"Yeah," Jensen says, shrugs.
"Get your coat works?" Jared offers, smiling. "Don't look at me, man, I don't do this either."
"Okay," Jensen says. They stare at each other, a long moment. He's as scared as I am, Jared thinks. Worse.
"Right," Jensen says. "Get your coat. Pasta good for you?"
"Anything," Jared says.
"'M not assuming," Jared says. "And you should, before... I kind of want you," he says. "Badly. You should know."
Jensen laughs, then, dry. "I kinda think that's only fair," he says, and by the look in his eyes he's thinking exactly the same thing as Jared. But Jared wants more than a quick fuck on a porn set. Wants to offer more. He says, "Take me home first?"
Jensen does. There's an entirely embarrassing few moments that involve a very quick shower, far too much stifled laughter and a high five from Mike that Jensen doesn't see, a formidable list of things to be done Kate already seems to have covered, and then, at last, they're walking down the steps to the street, and when Jared sticks out his hand, Jensen takes it.
Jensen lives in a rented room just north of Central Park: it takes a crowded hour to get there, and Jared spends the subway ride in a daze, Jensen standing with him, shoulder pressed against shoulder. He fits.
"This isn't... I had to sell the house," Jensen says. "For Stu. As well as shoot those two pieces of shit." He's got a wall full of modern art, floor to ceiling bookcases, and a screen too big for the room. There are still boxes in the hallway, a pair of scarlet stilettos, two umbrellas, and a fedora. A cupboard full of old toys, an Atari, three different video cameras, two electric guitars and a Marshall amp. There's an acoustic that looks well-loved on a stand in the corner.
"But you got AP. That's good, right?" Jared asks. He's curled up on the couch, glass of wine in his hand, and Jensen's bare feet are heavy against his thighs. He's got one hand on Jensen's ankle and he likes the way the light plays with the color of Jensen's eyes and the faint, disbelieving smile that creeps onto his face when he looks at Jared.
"Yeah," Jensen says. He looks down at his own glass, tips it and swirls the wine. He's got dark eyelashes, stubby, strong. "Just wanted you to know. I don't owe anything now. No strings. Just... Stu's the only guy I've ever slept with," he says. "So -"
"Okay," Jared says. He puts the wine glass down. "I guess... babe," he says. "You know... porn's not real. It's never going to be as good as it is on screen. I'm not that guy. If you're looking -"
"I'm not looking for anything," Jensen says. "I mean. This is crazy, right? I don't even know what I'm doing here, this is, Jay, I don't -" His eyes are wide.
"C'mere," Jared says. "C'mon. I'm a big guy, I can take you. And don't take this the wrong way, 'cause you're fucking gorgeous, but I couldn't get it up right now if you were paying me double. So c'mon over here and give me a hug."
There's a moment when he thinks he's crashed and burned. Then Jensen shrugs, shuffles gingerly along the couch with his wineglass still in his hand, until Jared takes it away and tugs him down. No kisses, not yet. He tucks Jensen's head into his shoulder, holds on and breathes, and Jensen clutches onto his hoodie and breathes with him. There's nowhere else Jared would rather be.
Eventually, Jensen mutters into his shoulder, "I'm not going to stop making porn."
"I know that," Jared says. "I am. That side of the camera, anyways."
He can feel the shock of it, but the next thing Jensen says is, "I'm poor."
There's a defiance to the words that's more than amusing. Jared says, "I'm not."
Jensen says, "I top. Sometimes."
"I have no problem with that," Jared says. "At all."
Jensen says, "I like New York."
"We'll work something out," Jared says. He's really smiling now, and he can feel the rounding curve of Jensen's cheek, ducks his head and rests his chin on Jensen's hair. "I want a dog," he offers. "I'm gonna want dinner. And breakfast. I eat a lot. It's a good job I've got money."
"I want to finish this film," Jensen says. "But I can't... I was so fucking jealous," he says, muffled.
"So we change the script," Jared says. "Sam's in love with someone else anyway."
"Yeah?" Jensen asks, equable. He moves, looking up.
Jared kisses him then, gently. A promise. "So am I," he says.
"Hey," Jared says, and then he has to stand there for what feels like five minutes until the audience stops cheering. He shuffles from foot to foot, looks at the statuette, gives Jensen a wave and watches him blush, taps the microphone, makes shushing motions with his arms, taps the microphone again. Jensen looks amazing in a tuxedo. He's so fucking beautiful, Jared's boyfriend, he's unreal.
"Guys," Jared says. "Guys. C'mon. This is the last time I'm gonna get one of these, so hush up, will ya? Thanks."
Then he says. "So. I gotta thank you. This film... you've seen it, right?" He's expecting the laughter this time, waits for it, grinning. "Yeah, I know," he says. "We kind of cut most of the sex, so the fact you liked it enough to give us best film and you gave me this baby again, that means a lot. Thank you. And I've got to thank Dave and Phil and the crew from AP, and Timmy, they're all down there if you want to catch up in the bar, and Sara and Ally for letting me do this. Ladies, thank you," he says, and he smiles down at Ally and Sara sitting either side of his mom and dad, all four of them looking crazy smart. "I gotta tell you," he says, "Jen says I have to mention the new film, so I hope y'all like it, 'cause we had a blast. But..." he says, and he looks down at everyone at the tables, his friends, his two companies, his manager, his family, the crazy, gorgeous guy he somehow managed to hang onto, and he knows he's never been happier. "But, you guys. Scariest day of my life, I swear." He pulls the box out of his pocket, hangs onto it. He's been terrified all day he'll lose the thing, that Jensen will - he takes a deep breath.
"Jensen Ackles," Jared says. "I love you. Marry me?"