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21 July 2009 @ 06:42 pm
Live & On Stage: 2X Everything  
Master Post

2X Everything

Payton walked into the girls’ room to find Braylin and Whitney huddled around an open magazine. They quickly shut it and Whitney put it behind her back.

What are you doing?” Payton asked.

“Nothing,” the other girls said together, flushing.

“Liars,” Payton said, and grabbed the magazine. It was People.

“Don’t look, Payton,” Braylin said.

Whitney put an arm around Payton. “She’ll just see it online,” she told Braylin, and turned to page 23.

“What?” Payton gasped. The headline read, “Wedding Bells for 5X Everything’s Tommy?”

“It doesn’t say they’re actually getting married,” Whitney said. “Just that someone who knows them said Tommy might be getting close to asking her.”

“And she’s not even on tour with them like she was last year,” Braylin said.

“Only because she had college-things to do,” Payton sniffed. “I don’t care what you guys say, she’s too old for him.”

Braylin and Whitney exchanged a knowledgeable look over Payton’s head. “Well, he is the oldest,” Braylin said timidly.

“He isn’t even,” Whitney said. “Michael is.”

“Oh,” Braylin said with a dismissive wave, “Michael is great but he’s just the funny one. Honestly, Payton, I don’t know why you don’t like Jensen more. He’s so cute.”

“I just love the way Tommy takes care of everyone and keeps them all together,” Payton said, her lower lip trembling. “It won’t be the same, ever again, if he and Jamie get married.”

“These magazines don’t know what they’re talking about anyway,” Whitney said and decisively took it out of Payton’s hands and made to pitch it in the trash. Payton squealed and grabbed it back.

“Well, I want to cut out his picture!” she said defensively, and hurried out of the room as the bell rang.

Jared, facedown on his bed, didn’t bother to look up when someone knocked at his door. When they knocked again, he shouted, “I said no!”

“No what?” said a voice from the hallway. It was definitely not Chad, and Jared scrambled out of bed to answer the door.
“Hey, Alexis,” he said, letting her in. She took in his mussed appearance with amusement. He’d come straight back to the room after rehearsal, showered, pulled on sweats and a T-shirt and crashed onto the bed.
“Nice look,” she said, and made herself comfortable in the armchair. “Definitely a Teen Beat cover shot.”
“Shut up, Miss Seventeen Magazine Prom Issue,” he said, and flopped back onto the bed.
Alexis grinned good-naturedly. “So, no what?” she repeated.
“Oh,” Jared said vaguely, and tossed an arm over his eyes. “I thought you were Chad. So, it was no to whatever he wanted. I’m Chadded out.”
“Wow, and that only took what, five years?” Alexis said. “Gotta be a record.”
“Yeah, most people are Chadded out in like five days,” Jared answered. “What’s up?”
“I want food,” Alexis answered decisively. “In a restaurant. I want to go sit down somewhere and have someone come ask nicely what I want to eat and then bring it to me.”
Jared stretched and yawned, thinking. “I like food,” he said, but didn’t move.
Alexis nudged him in the leg with her foot. “Come on, take a girl out,” she implored. “Besides, I never see you anymore.”
“Just because we’re not tied to our mothers, enduring endless group activities,” Jared pointed out, smiling to soften his words. Alexis had made those endless group activities bearable for many years, especially after he and Sandy had split up.
He sat up decisively. “Let me change,” he said. “Can’t take a girl out looking like a slob.”
“Atta boy!” Alexis crowed. “I want dessert too.”
“Wow,” Jared said. “Don’t let the paparazzi catch you eating it.” She slapped at him as he walked by to the bathroom.
The front desk recommended a place with “unbelievably sinful” chocolate cake right up the street. It was small, and no one noticed the two teenagers, so they were unharassed. They were waiting for their dinner, Jared listening to Alexis talk about a new teen drama she might audition for during the July break, when a hand clapped down on Jared’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” Tom said when Jared looked up, “but aren’t you Jared Padalecki, Mickey Mouse Club superstar?”
“Oh my God,” Michael said, coming up behind Tom, “and it’s Disney Princess Alexis Bledel. Wait until I tell everyone tomorrow in biology!”
“Hey, guys,” Jared said, then glimpsed Jensen, Steve and Chris coming in behind them. “Alexis, this is Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum.”
“Hi, Tom,” Alexis said, extending her hand. “Nice to meet you. Sadly, I know this one,” and she grinned up at Michael.
“Shhh,” Michael said. “That god-awful Channel movie never happened. I’ve never laid eyes on you before.” He leaned in to hug her once Tom relinquished her hand. “How are you, kiddo?”
“I’m great,” she said as the rest of the group came over.
“Join us,” Tom said, and when Jared and Alexis tried to protest they were shouted down and then hauled out of their chairs to a large corner booth.
Jared found himself wedged between Jensen and Tom while Michael and Chris lodged Alexis in between them and set about outrageously vying for her attention. Jared watched them a little anxiously until he determined that neither man actually had lecherous intent, and until he was convinced that Alexis was enjoying the attention.
Tom and Steve were deep in conversation about some changes to their act lineup, leaving Jared and Jensen sitting silent and smushed together at the other end of the booth.
“So, hey,” Jared said, and then mentally chastised himself for his awesome powers of conversation. He didn’t know why he could never seem to form a full sentence around Jensen, especially when everyone said he never shut up the rest of the time.
Jensen gave him a crooked smile and Jared could swear he knew what Jared had just been thinking. “Hey,” Jensen answered politely. “I see you’ve moved up the Club social chain.”
Jared laughed. “I’ve just gotten smarter. It happens, eventually,” he admitted, then added, “Alexis and I started in Club together.”
“The old vanguard,” Jensen said sagely, making Jared shrug and blush. He squirmed a little, trying to get more comfortable in the overcrowded bench, Jensen warm against his side.
“I guess,” he said, fiddling nervously with his napkin, inexplicably embarrassed by his long tenure with the Mickey Mouse Club. “At least I haven’t been there as long as Chad.”
“I was under the impression that was because no one else would have Chad,” Jensen said without malice, and it relaxed Jared enough to laugh sincerely.
“Possibly,” he said, then changed it to, “Probably.” A twinge of guilt made him add, “Chad’s not so bad. He’s just kind of . . . enthusiastic.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Jensen said dryly.
“No, really,” Jared said, shaking his head, “he can be a good friend. You should see him if he thinks someone has hurt one of his friends. He just doesn’t always think a lot of things through. Or, you know, think anything through.”
Jensen smiled easily. “Again, I’ll take your word for it,” he said. “I don’t really know him, just what I read in the rags and online.”
Jared groaned and leaned back in his seat. “Don’t tell me you troll the Internet for Channel gossip,” he said, and Jensen shrugged.
“On occasion, especially before we’re going to tour with someone,” he admitted. “Call it research. Anyway, relax. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single scandalous tidbit about you, unless you count those pictures of you and Chad trying to polka at that Oktoberfest.”
Jared slid down in the booth and covered his face with a hand. “Sadly, we weren’t even drinking,” he muttered.
“Don’t you think that by your age you should have a scandalous tidbit or two out there, Padalecki?” drawled Chris, leaning across the table and joining in.
“Who, Jared?” Alexis said with a laugh. “He wouldn’t hurt a flea. He’s the good boy, don’t you know.”
“He’s young,” Michael said. “Give him time. I bet we could do some corrupting.”
Alexis slapped a tiny hand definitely on the table. “I won’t have it,” she said firmly. “There has to be someone left in Club that I’m not worried will stab me in the back.”
“Oh, it’s hard to be the queen, isn’t it, Lexi?” Michael said, sighing dramatically and putting a hand over his heart.
“I wouldn’t know, Michael,” she answered archly. “Are you trying to tell us something?”
That brought a roar of laughter from the table, and dinner soon followed. It wasn’t the quiet evening they’d been looking for, but Jared found himself having a lot of fun with all of the guys, and Alexis was in her element, princess at a table of suitors.
After dinner, Jared excused himself for the bathroom, followed by Jensen and Michael. While they were washing up, Jensen said casually, “So is Alexis your girl now?”
“What?” Jared asked, surprised. “Oh, no. She’s been dating that guy from the new X-Men series for a few months now. We’re just hanging out.”
Jensen nodded. “Just wondered,” he said, and left. Jared started to follow and was startled to find Michael looking at him hard. He checked himself in the mirror quickly, then checked his fly.
“Am I good?” he asked Michael, who grinned wryly.
“Yep,” he said, and clapped Jared on the shoulder, steering him back out the restaurant.
A teenage girl out to dinner with her parents was waiting at the table, and everyone accommodated with a group photo, to the girls’ delight and her parents’ amusement. Then Chris and Michael declared that they were hitting the bars. Jared and Alexis recognized it as their cue to say good night.
As they scrambled out of the booth and Michael and Tom argued about who was picking up the bill, a hand rested lightly between Jared’s shoulder blades. He looked up to see Jensen smiling at him.
“Thanks for joining us,” Jensen said, and Jared wondered why he never thought this guy was insincere. He couldn’t be nice all the time, right?
“Yeah, sure,” Jared said, and ran a hand through his hair.
“I’m glad we ran into you,” Jensen added. “Hope we do again.”
Jared nodded, and then Alexis was tugging at his arm and saying something low and obscene over her shoulder to Chris that had him doubled over in laughter. He let Alexis drag him out of the restaurant, looking back once to see Jensen and Michael watching him and talking to each other.
“That was fun,” Alexis said happily as they walked back to the hotel.
“Yeah, it was,” Jared answered. “They’re all really nice guys. I’ve never really hung out with any of them except Tom before this year.”
Alexis hooked her arm through Jared’s. “I know Michael has this reputation of kind of being a douche bag but he was very cool to me when we did that movie together,” she said.
“You played his little sister, didn’t you?” Jared asked, and she nodded.
“Right after I’d started Club,” she said. “Seems like eons ago, doesn’t it?”
“Mm-hmm,” Jared said absently, then softly elbowed her. “Hey, by the way, I think Jensen likes you.”
“What?” Alexis gave a startled laugh. “What makes you think that?”
“He wanted to know if you were my girlfriend,” Jared said. “Asked while we were in the bathroom.”
“Oh, sweetie.” Alexis patted Jared’s arm. “I don’t think he was asking because he likes me.”
“Why not?” Jared asked, feeling a little ruffled that anyone would not like Alexis.
“Because I’m not his type,” Alexis said. “I think he was asking because he likes you.”
“Wha—” Jared started, then stopped, furling his brow. “Ooooh,” he said a second later, then, “Really? Are you sure?”
Alexis shrugged. “Pretty sure. He’s never had a girlfriend, never takes a girl to events. Besides, he was watching you all night, and I don’t think it’s because he was jealous of your lasagna.”
Really?” Jared said again. “I’m just, I don’t know. I’ve never had a guy like me before. Not that Jensen’s not cool and all, I just . . . I’m just surprised,” he ended lamely.
Alexis patted his arm. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “There’s no rule about having to like someone back. Or that you can’t like someone back. Or that you have to decide right this second, when you really don’t know him.”
Jared huffed out a breath. “I know,” he said. “I’ve just, you know, always dated girls.”
Alexis stopped walking, causing Jared to turn and look at her. “Jared,” she said sternly. “You’ve dated one girl.”
“Well,” Jared said obstinately, knowing she was right, “I guess that makes me 100 percent heterosexual in my dating choices.”
Alexis rolled her eyes and started walking again. “Well, I think he’s adorable,” she said. “If I didn’t think he was gay, I might have to drop Iceman to become a Five Times Everything groupie.”
“I can get you a T-shirt,” Jared said. “Maybe a twin sheet set. And don’t forget a Five Times Everything Trapper Keeper.”
They both started laughing and kept it up right into the hotel.

Jared totally did not find himself looking for Jensen backstage. Or in the parking lot when the buses were loading.

He also totally did not go online and confirm that Jensen didn’t have a girlfriend or seem to have ever had a girlfriend.
He completely did not find out that 5X Everything had all gone on vacation to Hawaii to surf together earlier in the year and he so did not have to admit to himself that Jensen looked pretty good in the paparazzi shots of him at the beach.
And he so would never put that story about Jensen spending a whole day at Disneyland with that little girl with cancer in his Favorites. If he had, that would be the stupidest, most girly thing he had ever done, and he had been known to do a lot of stupid and a lot of girly things.
He also did not get out his box of Sandy memorabilia and drunkenly cry over it before Alexis ripped it out of his hands and declared that he could have it back when he was ready, in a year or two.
“Dude,” Chad said the next morning, “that was one of the stupidest, most girly things you’ve ever done.”
“Shuddup,” Jared muttered from under his comforter, and Chad gave his exposed calf a resounding thwop with his open palm.
“I thought you were through with all the moping and the weeping,” Chad said. “You said it was better for both of you.”
“I know,” Jared said, and flipped the covers off his head. “I just never thought about dating somebody else.”
Chad was eyeballing him suspiciously. “And who are you thinking about dating now?” he asked. “Please tell me it’s not AnnaLynne.”
Jared groaned. “Don’t even think it,” he said, then added a little white lie. “I don’t mean someone specific, just, you know, thinking about dating other people. And, I don’t know, it’s weird to think about getting to know someone and deciding if I like them, when I knew Sandy, like, forever and always liked her.”
Chad was chewing on his thumbnail. He almost looked anxious. “Okay,” he said. “Just promise me one thing – it’s not Alexis, is it? Because that could be a big mess.”
“Nooo,” Jared said, and when Chad scowled at him he held up both hands in surrender. “I swear! No more Club dating, man.”
“All right, all right,” Chad said, then waggled his eyebrows at Jared. “You know, if you’re finally getting tired of your own two hands, I’m pretty sure I can hook you up with a cure for that.”
“No skeezy women,” Jared said quickly.
“There’s an amazing number of totally legal women who are disturbingly into the Disney Channel,” Chad began, and Jared kicked him off the bed along with the rest of the blankets.

Of course, Jared ran into Jensen when he wasn’t looking for him, coming out of the hotel gym with Michael and Chris while Jared was headed in. Jensen did not look nicely built and adorably sweaty and rumpled in his gym clothes, and Jared did not feel too tall and gangly and awkward.
But even if that were true, there was no way Jared could deny that he acted like an utter goober.
“Hey, Jared,” Jensen said, friendly and clearly happy to run into him.
“Oh!” Jared said. “Oh, hey. Hi,” and then stared at his sneakers because otherwise he was just going to stare at Jensen and he could just feel Chris and Michael eyeballing him.
“Ah, I guess they’re keeping you busy,” Jensen said, and Jared could hear the wary note in his voice. He cleared his throat and did his best to come up with an answer that made sense, which was difficult because there was a slow, hot flush working its way up his body.
“Um, yeah,” he said. “We’ve had a bunch of publicity stuff lately.” Then he stood there stupidly, trying to think of something to say. Michael cleared his throat.
“Better let you get to the gym then,” Jensen said slowly. “Gotta look good for the fans.”
Jared looked up and gave him a quick smile. “Right,” he said. “Nice to see you again,” and then he hurried into the gym without waiting for an answer.
After he almost killed himself by flummoxing the use of equipment, Jared gave up on the gym and instead went for a long, hard run, followed by an equally long shower. Neither made him feel like less of an ass. Here he’d been, wanting to see Jensen again for more than a week, and he had totally acted like a moron. Jensen must think he was mentally deficient.
Chad was in a meeting with his agent, and Alexis was no where to be found, so –
“SAW JEN. THINK I LIKE HIM. AM IDIOT,” he texted Alexis. A reply came back almost immediately.
Jared snorted and smiled, already feeling a little better as he snapped his phone shut. He found Bret and Dustin down the hall engaged in some serious gaming and found that a solid hour of virtually blasting did a lot to calm a guy down.
It also helped to know that Alexis would surely come back armed with detailed plans of how to make Jared not be an idiot. Jared let himself become one with the controller and stop worrying.

Alexis’ plans included having a ready list of interesting topics to discuss, remembering to look Jensen in the face, and arranging to run into him on a regular basis. The first was easy enough to come up with and memorize, the second Jared thought he could handle if he just kept reminding himself, but the third was turning out to be impossible. Oddly enough, he kept running into Tom or Steve or anybody but Jensen. The one time he did catch him, coming out of the Green Room, Jensen had just nodded politely and hurried down the hall without stopping. Chris, following in Jensen’s wake, had given Jared what he could have sworn was a scowl as he walked by.

“I think we were just wrong,” he told Alexis later that day. “It was stupid anyway. I mean, I’m not even sure if I’d like to date a guy.”
“You totally want to date that guy,” Alexis said. “And you don’t know what’s up with him. Maybe he has other things going on and he’s just not thinking about the oh-so-cute Jared Padalecki of the Mickey Mouse Club.”
“Maybe,” Jared said glumly. He couldn’t help feeling a little betrayed. After all, he had actually admitted to himself that he found another guy attractive, and now it seemed like the other guy didn’t like him after all. It didn’t seem very considerate of Jensen.
He guessed he hadn’t quite given up yet, though, because he found himself hanging around the talent doors at the venue the next day, knowing that 5X Everything was due to come in and rehearse soon. Instead of Jensen, though, Michael came strolling in and caught his eye. Jared gave him a half-wave and a smile, but to his surprise, Michael’s face darkened.
“Are you kidding?” he said. “Scram, Padalecki.”
“Uh,” Jared said.
“Now,” Michael said, and started moving toward him. “That wasn’t a suggestion.”
Jared began backing up instinctively and held his hands out in front of him. “What the hell, Michael?” he said, and then his back hit the wall. Michael kept moving until he was right in Jared’s face.
“Look, if you’re too much of an insecure little boy to deal with other people’s personal choices, that’s your business,” Michael said, very quiet and somehow very threatening. “But you keep whatever you think you know to yourself, and you just stay the hell away from Jensen.”
“What?!” Jared said, and cringed inwardly as his voice cracked a little. This had not been in the game plan that he and Alexis had so carefully crafted.
“You didn’t seem to have a problem with him until after that night at dinner,” Michael said, still low and dangerous.
“I don’t have a problem with him now!” Jared protested. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Michael backed up a pace and scrutinized Jared. “You sure seemed like you had a problem with him that day outside the gym,” he said flatly and Jared felt his face go suddenly, blazingly red. “And you look like you know exactly what I’m talking about,” Michael added with contempt.
“No, wait,” Jared said, starting to put the pieces together. “Wait, wait, wait. Do you think, I mean, did Jensen think that I was being, that it was weird because I thought, I mean I don’t even know for sure but maybe I thought –”
“Spit it out,” Michael said. “That you thought what? That Jensen was gay and suddenly you couldn’t even look him in the face?”
That’s what he thought?” Jared gasped in disbelief.
“What it looked like to me,” Michael said. “And maybe you don’t think about how that feels to the other person, but it’s Jensen’s business, not yours, and not anyone else’s, and if you can’t act like a decent human being to him, you can at least leave him alone.”
Jared slammed his head back against the wall. “I’m such an idiot,” he said. “Actually, idiot isn’t even a big enough word for it.”
“I won’t argue,” Michael said, and turned to walk away. Jared reached out and grabbed his arm.
“Wait, wait,” he said, then hastily removed his hand at a black look from Michael. “No, I mean, that wasn’t it at all. I mean, I wasn’t freaked out because I thought Jensen might be gay. Because, I don’t know if he is or not but that’s all right, it doesn’t bother me, I’m in show business, I know lots of gay people.”
Michael didn’t quite look like he believed Jared, but at least he wasn’t leaving. “What, then?” he demanded. “Because there was something up with you that day.”
Jared didn’t know how he could get redder, but he could feel it happening. “It’s just that,” and he knew he was nearly whispering, “Alexis thought that maybe Jensen might, you know, like me. And then,” Jared ran a frustrated hand through his hair, “then I started thinking about how nice he is and fun and cute and I’ve never thought that about a guy before and then I kept wanting to run into him but didn’t and then he was just like, there, and I’m an idiot and I didn’t know what to say and it was really, really stupid but I didn’t think that he would think that I . . .” He trailed off and looked at Michael pleadingly.
“Oh. My. God,” Michael said. “You’re serious.”
Jared nodded miserably. “I didn’t know I’d hurt his feelings,” he said. “I had this whole plan of things to talk about and looking him in the face and was going to do better, really, but I guess now he must be pretty mad.”
Michael sputtered and suddenly had Jared by the collar and was hauling him into a costume room and shutting the door firmly behind them. He then leaned against it and began laughing so hard tears came out his eyes.
“It’s not funny,” Jared said sullenly, knowing that he sounded like a sulky little kid and unable to stop himself.
“It’s kinda funny,” Michael said, and then put a reassuring hand on Jared’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, man,” he said sincerely. “You’re lucky it ended up being me in your face about it – Kane wanted to pummel you right there in the gym.”
“Really?” Jared asked. “I guess I screwed everything up.”
“It’s all right,” Michael said sincerely. “We can get a little . . . protective of Jensen and his feelings and his privacy. Sometimes it can make us jump to conclusions. Apparently.”
“So,” Jared shuffled his feet, afraid to look up while he asked, “are Jensen’s feelings really hurt?”
“Yes,” Michael said baldly, but he was smiling when Jared peeked up at him. “But I’ll tell him that we talked and that it was just a misunderstanding. It’ll be cool.”
“Um, are you going to tell him . . .” Jared put a nervous, clammy hand on the back of his neck.
“Nooo,” Michael said. “I don’t play matchmaker. Besides, you’ve got your whole plan with the list of things to talk about and looking Jensen in the face.”
Jared gave him a dirty look. “I know it’s a stupid plan,” he said.
“Of course it is,” Michael said. “But, all right, here, give me your phone.”
“Huh?” Jared said, but he was already handing it over and Michael was typing away and handing it back.
“His number. It’s in there now,” he said. “Why don’t you act like a normal person and call him up? You know, dinner, a movie, that kind of thing.”
“A date?” Jared asked, staring down at the 10 numbers and the name “JENSEN” magically on his screen.
“It’s a customary part of getting to know someone you’d eventually like to be naked with,” Michael said. “Just give me a day to make sure I’ve put everything back where it should be.”
“Thanks,” said Jared, feeling and sounding dazed. “I guess this is stupid to ask now, but, I mean, would he want to go on a date with me?”
“Yes,” Michael said. “And yes. So, I’m gonna go rehearse and I’ll talk to Jensen and you,” he waved a hand vaguely, “you go do whatever it is you kiddies do for fun and see if you can’t work yourself up into calling sometime in the next few days.”
“Okay,” Jared said, still feeling and sounding dazed. “Thank you. A lot.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Michael said, and was out the door, leaving Jared still staring in rapture at his phone.

Jared decided he definitely should not call that night because he didn’t know when Michael was going to talk to Jensen. Then he couldn’t call the next night because afternoon Club rehearsal went way off course and the director called them back for evening rehearsal and kept them there until Kripke declared it was too late for the minors and ordered everyone to bed.
The next night was show night, so calling seemed out of the question. And the night after that they were on the road until 7 p.m. and slated to be back on the bus at 8 a.m., and Jared thought it didn’t seem like the best night to call. At least, that’s what he was telling himself as he lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling.
His phone started playing Barbie Girl, and he yanked it out of his pocket. “CALL YET?” the message demanded.
“NO,” he sent back and got an angry face in response. He was trying to come up with some kind of defense when someone knocked at his door. Phone in hand, he stomped over and yanked it open.
“You’re not being help—“ He cut the sentence off when he realized it wasn’t Alexis. In fact, it was Jensen.
It was Jensen looking super-cute in jeans and a t-shirt. It was also Jensen with a pizza.
“I could come back later,” Jensen said. “Or with a different pizza. You’re not a vegetarian, are you? I got a supreme because I wasn’t sure.”
Jared did not feel like an idiot in his gym shorts and his worn-out MMC rehearsal t-shirt. He also did not feel covered in road grime. And he was sure that his hair was not sticking up everywhere.
“Jensen! Hi!” he said, and while his conversation still sucked, he at least remembered to look Jensen in the face.
“Jared. Hi,” Jensen answered.
“You’re here!” Jared said, because he was the biggest loser ever.
“I’m here,” Jensen said, and suddenly he looked unsure of himself. “I thought maybe dinner?” He held up the pizza box. “Maybe a movie or some Xbox?”
Jared felt a giant, dopey smile growing across his face. “That would be, well, it would be great,” he said, and suddenly realized that Jensen was still standing in the hallway. “Oh, duh. Come in,” and he held open the door. Jensen came in and set the pizza on the table.
“Nice room,” he said. “Looks just like mine.”
“Yeah,” Jared said, and huffed a short laugh. “Do you, um, did you . . . There’s a soda machine outside. You want something?”
“Sure,” Jensen said, pulling out a chair. “Pepsi, Coke, whatever they have.”
Jared dug change out of his bag and tried not to run down the hall to the machine. His fingers were clumsy feeding in the coins, and the cans felt wonderfully cool in his sweaty hands.
When he got back to the room, Jensen was scrolling through Jared’s iPod, which had been sitting on the table.
“Okay?” Jensen asked, holding it up. “Or are you iShy?”
“Just let me say that some of that music is on there for professional purposes,” Jared said firmly, setting the sodas down and pulling out the chair across from Jensen.
Jensen laughed. “I’m in a boy band, Jared,” he said. “Your Disney pop will not phase me.” He scrolled for a few minutes then set the iPod down and opened the pizza box. “You actually have wider musical tastes than I would have guessed,” he said.
Jared shrugged and pulled out a slice, using a napkin as a plate. “Mom loves folk music. My older brother loves classic rock. Dad likes country. And I have a little sister. I get a sampling of all of it when I’m home,” he said.
Jensen was digging into his own pizza. “You still at home?” he asked, and Jared nodded.
“Well, when I’m not doing this,” he amended once he’d swallowed, waving to the hotel room. “Are you going to see your family when we’re in Texas?”
Jensen nodded. “I’m going to spend the July break with them,” he said. “I haven’t really had any time with them since Christmas, so that’ll be nice.”
Jared nodded and focused on his pizza, suddenly out of things to say. Jensen didn’t seem to mind, though, and they ate in companionable silence. Jared put away two slices and started more slowly on the third.
“Jensen, listen,” he said awkwardly, “about that day outside the gym –”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jensen said firmly. “I just misread the situation.”
Jared nodded, and felt himself flushing. “I’m not, I mean, I don’t care who people date,” he said.
Jensen shot him a quick, amused look. “I hope you care a little who I date,” he said, and Jared’s stomach did its best to flutter under all that pizza.
“You know what I mean,” he mumbled, and turned even redder.
“I do,” Jensen said softly. “I just,” he cleared his throat. “Everything we do is out there in front of everyone. I like the band, and the touring, and the fans, and I’m not ashamed of who I am, but there are some things that belong to me, not to the world.”
“So, you’re not . . . out?” Jared asked, not wanting to offend and not sure what words to use.
Jensen shrugged. “People who know me know,” he said. “The guys, my family, close friends. I just don’t think my love life is Bop magazine’s business, whether I was dating a girl or a guy.”
Jared nodded. He and Sandy had been all over magazines, all the time, and the Channel had encouraged it. Mostly Jared didn’t mind – Channel viewers had watched him grow up, and he was used to it – but sometimes he wished that anyone couldn’t find out anything about him on the Internet.
“So, I guess you haven’t done this before,” Jensen said, and Jared realized he’d just been sitting there thinking.
“I haven’t done much of anything before,” he admitted. “Sandy and I started dating when I was 14 and just broke up last fall. She was awesome but we never had to, you know, actually date. It was always so easy. Even our breakup was easy. And since then I just haven’t, I don’t know, thought about dating anybody else.”
He looked up suddenly. “How’d you, I mean, Michael said he wouldn’t—”
“Michael is such a liar,” Jensen said. “He told me that you had not acted like an asshat because you had a giant crush on me and you’d never liked a boy before and it turned you all into awkward-boy, but if you should call anytime soon I should take the call and if you didn’t call I should track you down and make you have dinner with me. So,” he gestured to the pizza box, “here I am.”
Jared shook his head. “I should have known not to trust him,” he said, but he was smiling.
“I’m kind of glad you did,” Jensen said, and his smile did not make Jared all warm and tingly.
“Me too,” he admitted, and smiled back.
After they’d dispatched the pizza they found Live Free or Die Hard on cable and situated themselves on the tiny couch, feet up on the bed. At first Jared was hyper-aware of Jensen beside him, of his warm thigh pressed into Jared’s, of his arm thrown over the back of the couch, of his chest close enough for Jared to feel him breathing, but as he settled into the movie, Jared became less aware of those things and more aware of Jensen’s full, smiling lips, of his bright green eyes focused on Jared, of his long, strong fingers resting on the far arm of the couch.
The only cure for it, of course, was a non-stop running commentary on the awesomeness of John McClane, which Jared was more than happy to provide. He even found himself throwing in hand gestures, despite his efforts to rein himself in when he found himself literally flapping his hands at one point. Jensen provided little commentary himself, but whenever Jared looked over, he was watching Jared more than the movie, with a small smile on his face.
Just before the biggest explosion was set to go off, while Jared had pulled his legs up beneath him on the couch and was practically ready to catapult himself skyward with excitement, his mouth running full blast, hands in frenzied accompaniment, he turned to Jensen to make sure he was fully engaged in this thrilling cinematic moment and suddenly Jensen’s hand was cupping Jared’s head and pulling him even closer on the tiny couch, their heads drawing together and then he was kissing Jared, a real, full-on kiss, and his lips were soft and moist and firm and gentle, and his fingers on the back of Jared’s head stroked his hair, and Jared reached an arm around to find Jensen’s shoulder, and his mouth opened naturally to Jensen’s and really, had there ever been a better way invented to shut Jared up?
“Wow,” Jared whispered when Jensen pulled his head back. Their faces were still almost touching, and Jensen’s green-green eyes were looking intently into his. Jared felt a big, stupid grin stretch across his face.
“Do you always talk this much during movies?” Jensen asked, their chests so close that Jared could feel it as a rumble in his own body.
“Sometimes. Yeah. Pretty much. All the time,” Jared confessed. “Maybe I was kind of nervous too.”
“Are you nervous now?” Jensen asked softly.
“Not what I would call it,” Jared answered, and leaned in to place his own kiss on Jensen’s lips, happy and curious and tingling right down to his toes.
It was a good thing Jared had already seen the movie, because he didn’t look at the screen again for the rest of the night.

“So, what’s it like?” Alexis asked after rehearsal later that week.

“What’s what like?” Jared said.
She stood on her tiptoes to whisper. “Kissing a boy.”
Jared knew his stupid ears were red but he pushed her away good-naturedly. “Like you don’t know,” he said.
“I would never,” Alexis said primly and Jared couldn’t help the stupid, happy grin that stayed on his face the rest of the night.

3X Everything