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Title: Your Brains Are No Match For My Tractorbeam [Complete]
Author: poor_choices
Fandom: Supernatural RPS
Pairing: Jared Padalecki/Jensen Ackles; brief Jensen/Kyle Gallner, Jared/others, Gabe Tigerman/Sandy McCoy. Wow. Those look special all written out.
Rating: NC-17 overall.
Warnings: Dork Jensen, social maladjustment, sitcom situations.
Word Count: 17,000 total! This part is like 6000 or so.
Summary: AU, based on The Big Bang Theory. Jensen is a socially awkward but happy theoretical physicist, Jared is an aspiring actor, and everyone sucks at relationships pretty damn hard.
Notes: So, for fics4books, I offered a story from 5000 to 10000 words, because that seemed doable to me. therealw and speakfree got in touch with me and were like "We have a fic we'd love to get, but it would be longer than that! Could we work something out?" And we love charity, so we did, and now we have this fic, which was their brainchild. Title taken from "Your Brains vs. My Tractorbeam," by Say Hi To Your Mom.
Disclaimer: Lies and untruths.


Jensen Ackles generally considers himself to be a pretty self-aware guy.

He's a nerd. There's no denying this; honestly, he doesn't want to deny this. His mother will sometimes tell him that nerds are in, in a kind of worried, encouraging way, but that's not why Jensen doesn't mind being one. He doesn't care about being in. He cares about living a happy life, and being a really ridiculously advanced physicist and nerd is an important part of that happy life, because he's validated by getting awards.

Jensen knows he'll never be the most popular guy in a room, but he's got friends and colleagues a job and a life, so he doesn't worry much about the rest of the world.

Then, a new guy moves in across the hall.

Jensen came out to his parents during college with a lecture and a slideshow. He remembers his entire speech, which covered the problems with reproduction in an already overpopulated world and the benefits of an openly homosexual Nobel Prize winner for the gay community, and had ended with: "In conclusion, I think I'm gay."

"Honey, do you like men?" his mother asked gently.

"As much as I like anyone," Jensen said.

"Well, what makes you think you're gay?"

"I'm in college," said Jensen. "It's normal to discover your sexual preferences during college."

"You're eleven," said his mother.

"I don't know what that has to do with anything."

And his mother had said she supported him whatever he wanted to do, but she thought Jensen should really give it some more thought. At eighteen, he'd conducted an experiment that involved sleeping with two women and two men (the experiment had taken about six months, all told, because finding four people to sleep with him proved difficult) and concluded that while he had nothing against women, he preferred men, but could probably go without either without much trouble. And for the most part, he does--it's more trouble than it's worth, getting people to have sex with him. Especially given that, with precise calculations of pressure and angle, Jensen has found the most scientifically optimal ways to get himself off, and no one else is ever willing to take the time to learn them.

But the guy who's moving in across the hall makes Jensen's desire for actual human company reassert itself with fierce determination.

He's got a broad back, wide shoulders, great ass--a pretty much perfect specimen of a man.

And then he turns around and grins, and Jensen starts chanting the periodic table under his breath to get some focus that isn't on the guy's dimpled face and/or strong pectorals and/or tight jeans.

The guy's grin falters and he moves to confusion. "Are you okay?"

"Uh," says Jensen. "Hi. You're, uh, moving in?"

"Yeah," says the guy. "Just signed my lease. I'm Jared." He holds out a remarkably large hand, and if Jared is proportional, Jensen is already in awe of his penis. Because, scientifically speaking? Size matters. And this Jared guy, he's huge.

"I know, I got the tall genes," says Jared, flushing and grinning.

Jensen really needs to work on keeping his thoughts in his head. At least it doesn't sound like he actually mentioned Jared's penis. "Jensen," says Jensen, shaking Jared's hand. "I live here."

Jensen is stupidly, horribly self-conscious now. He can feel every stupid thing he's wearing tingling. He knows he's not an unattractive guy--he's decently tall with a pretty good body for how little he works out, and a face that some people consider attractive. Personally, he thinks he's disproportionate and a little strange, but he doesn't mind.

Today he's wearing an Aquaman shirt--unfortunate, as Aquaman isn't one of the more respected superheroes--over a green long-sleeved shirt with plaid pants. It's a very him look, but something about beautiful people makes Jensen want to not be himself. And Jared is one of the most beautiful people Jensen's ever seen.

He pushes his glasses up on his nose, and his glasses are just one more bad decision--he got the David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor style, thick black plastic frames that he thought were awesome on Ten, but don't really suit him. But it's not worth it to buy a new pair until his prescription changes, so now he looks like the giant dork that he is in front of Jared, who's unbelievably attractive.

Jared's still smiling at him, bright dimples and glinting eyes. Jensen swallows. "Uh. Hi," he says.

"You said that," says Jared, looking bemused. "You been living here long?"

"Three-hundred-seventeen days. And four hours."

"Wow," says Jared. "You keep really good track."

"I moved in the day The Bionic Woman premiered," says Jensen.

"Oh," says Jared. "That's cool. Uh...you don't wanna help me move some boxes, do you?"

Jensen doesn't, but he also doesn't want to go into his apartment alone and obsess about the hot guy outside, so he agrees.

He watches Jared hoist one of the boxes up, effortlessly, and Jensen is pretty sure, given how much that box weighs, Jared could probably lift Jensen just as easily.

Jensen shakes the equations and images out of his head.

He's so screwed.

Except he's not.

*

Jensen helps Jared with his boxes and comes up with several more efficient transportation methods that involve ideal angles and levers. Jared looks a little baffled and finally says, "So, you're a science guy?"

"Theoretical physicist."

"Theoretical?" asks Jared, wrinkling his brow. "So you do stuff that...might happen?"

Jensen scowls. "Hey! Many of the most accomplished minds in history were theoretical physicists. Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg, Fermi, Schrödinger..."

Jared puts up his hands, looking a little scared. "Sorry, sorry. I wasn't, uh, demeaning your profession or anything."

Jensen rubs the back of his neck. He knows he's not the most socially adjusted person in the world--he's really fucking smart, of course he knows that. But knowing that and being able to stop being awkward are two different things. "It's okay," he says. "I'm just used to people being jerks about it."

Jared smiles again and Jensen is momentarily incapable of functioning. "Hey, man, I get it. I'm trying to be an actor. No one respects my career aspirations."

"Trying?" asks Jensen. "So what are you?"

"Waitress," says Jared, smiling sheepishly.

"The gender-neutral term is waitron," says Jensen immediately.

"Yeah, but that sounds retarded," Jared replies slowly.

"It's politically correct," says Jensen.

"Never mind," says Jared. "Hey, uh--"

"Hey, douchebag!" Jensen feels a heavy hand on his shoulder and there's Chad.

Chad is an engineer and a pretty indefensible human being. He still lives with his mother, which Jensen considers unfair to everyone involved. He also spends a lot of time on the internet, trying to become familiar with plebeian slang. Jensen privately things that anyone who refers to the way regular people talk as "plebeian slang" will never really be familiar with it.

"Friend of yours?" asks Jared, looking amused.

"Whoa," says Chad, blinking at Jared from behind Jensen. "When'd you get hot friends, Jensen?"

Chad is bisexual for reasons that have nothing to do with the good of mankind and everything to do with being horny and desperate. Jensen doesn't disrespect Chad for this choice, exactly, but he doesn't like the way Chad's staring at Jared like he's a piece of meat. He understands the impulse, of course, but Chad's just so blatant.

"This is Chad," says Jensen, rubbing his face. "We're colleagues."

"Bitch, you love me."

"You're a theoretical physicist?" asks Jared, sounding wary. Jared is clearly a discerning person; he knows there's no way Chad could be a theoretical physicist.

"Like hell," says Chad. "Engineer."

"Is that supposed to be better?" asks Jared. Jensen could kiss him. Except that would be too socially awkward, even for him.

"It's totally better."

"Where's Gabe?" asks Jensen, mostly to try to distract Chad from making weird flirty eyes at Jared. On the bright side, Jared looks pretty grossed out.

"Bringing the food up."

Jensen thinks fast. "We're having takeout and watching Babylon 5," he tells Jared. "You're welcome to join us."

"Food?" asks Jared, grinning. "I'm in."

"You can sit next to me," says Chad with a leer.

"I can sit next to Jensen," says Jared, edging closer.

Maybe Chad's not such a bad guy to have around after all.

"Hey, guys, I got Thai. Are we starting with season one beca--" Gabe cuts himself off as soon as he notices Jared; he just goes totally quiet.

Jensen should have seen this coming. Gabe is pretty short for a guy, scrawny and still wary of being beaten up by bigger kids. As a result, he's painfully shy, even by nerd standards, which Jensen considers pretty irrational, given he's far more socially adjusted than, say, Chad.

Still, Gabe can't really talk around tall people, Hispanics, women, or the handicapped. Jensen asked for an explanation of this once, and Gabe broke out a powerpoint presentation about how various factors in his childhood had logically and unstoppably lead to his current social phobias. It had been impressive, but Jensen felt it relied too heavily on pop-psychology to be truly scientifically proven.

"Hi," Jared tries, giving Gabe a smile. "I'm Jensen's new neighbor."

"This tool doesn't talk around tall dudes," says Chad, waving his hand. "Ignore him, Jay-bird, I'm the one you want."

Jared says, "I'm pretty sure you're not."

"You get enough for one more, Gabe?" Jensen asks, deciding that ignoring Chad has worked for the last three years, so why stop now?

Gabe nods.

"Awesome. You coming, Jared?" he asks, trying not to sound too much like a come-on. He'd really like to fuck Jared, yes, but this isn't the ideal time to start hitting on him. Gabe and Chad are right there. And Jared probably isn't very receptive to being hit on at the moment, after Chad's attempts.

"Yeah," says Jared, "definitely."

"Score!" says Chad. Then he pauses. "Fuck, does this mean we're watching season one? I fucking hate Sinclair! And Delenn is way less hot when she's bald."

"Shut the fuck up," says Jensen, "and eat your pad thai."

*

"Here's a crazy thought," says Gabe two days later. "You could ask him out."

Jensen snorts. "I don't date, Gabe. It takes time away from my studies."

"Boo-tay call! Boo-tay call!" says Chad.

"Jared's not going to use me for sex," says Jensen. "I'm outside of Jared's zone of sexual acceptability. Do you need to see the chart?"

"If you show me the chart I will shove my foot up your ass. And you wouldn't get off on it," says Chad.

Jensen doesn't dignify that with a response. Instead, he turns back to Gabe. "It's nothing. If the opportunity presents itself, I'll have sex with him. If not, hey, I've expanded my social circle."

"You don't think the sexual tension will interfere with your friendship?"

"Please," says Chad, "Jensen wants to bone me and he never has trouble."

"One," says Jensen, "I don't find you sexually appealing. Two, I don't consider you a friend."

"Dude, I am defriending you on Facebook."

"That would be fine," says Jensen.

"So you're not even going to try with Jared?" asks Gabe.

Jensen considers this. "I have a few hypotheses to test."

"Dude, getting laid? It's not like science," says Chad.

"How would you know?" asks Gabe. "When was the last time you got laid?"

"You can't even talk to chicks," Chad points out. "You totally lose."

"He's got a point," says Jensen.

"Screw you guys," says Gabe. "I'm defriending both of you on Facebook."

"Are you keeping us on MySpace?" asks Jensen.

"If you play your cards right," says Gabe.

"I can live with that."

*

Jensen's plan to show off his hotness for Jared could have been better executed on several levels.

Wearing his old wire-rimmed glasses was a good idea in theory, but while at first the different prescription seemed workable, after ten minutes, it was hurting Jensen's head and screwing with his depth perception.

His old Flash shirt without the sleeves definitely shows off that he is 1. homosexual and 2. decently muscular, it's also too small and kind of itchy and smells weird. And his cutoff shorts are just awkward.

It doesn't really assert "I look like a sexual being" as much as it asserts "I can't dress myself or walk straight."

He's about to go back to his room and change when someone knocks on the door.

"Hey, Jensen! I need your help!"

Jensen looks down at himself. He looks really stupid.

But he's not going to say no if it's an emergency.

"Coming!"

Jensen goes for the door just as Jared opens it and gets hit in the face.

"Ow fuck!" says Jensen.

"Oh man!" Jared catches his shoulder. "Shit, it was open, I just--sorry! Are you okay?"

Jensen rubs his forehead. "Yeah, it's fine. Just a little bump."

"You're bleeding," says Jared. "God, I'm sorry. Do you have, I dunno, a towel? Bandages? Anything?"

"Bathroom."

"Okay, here, just. Sit down. I'll go..." Jared pushes Jensen onto the couch and runs off. Jensen puts pressure on his forehead, wondering how his day went so horribly wrong.

Jared comes back a second later. "Move your hand," he says, and then pulls Jensen's hand down anyway, putting a wet towel against the cut. Jensen is distracted by Jared's hand on his, still giant, still warm. Jared flashes him a grin.

"Sorry I'm such a klutz. Were you painting?"

"Painting?" asks Jensen. He doesn't really get words right now. They're a little complicated.

Jared gestures. "Your clothes. Looks kinda like my painting outfit. Stuff I don't mind getting dirty?"

Jensen tries valiantly to not think of all the ways Jared could get him dirty. This attraction is so inconvenient. "Experiment," says Jensen. "With my paintball equipment."

Jared's eyes light up. "You do paintball?"

"On Saturdays."

"Man, I used to love paintball in high school," says Jared. "You think I could tag along sometime?"

"We're very dedicated. I wouldn't want you to feel outclassed," says Jensen carefully.

"I think I can handle it." Jared pulls the towel off and dries off Jensen's forehead with a dry corner.

Jensen swallows. "What did you need, anyway?"

Jared laughs sheepishly as he gets a band aid. "Man, it's so stupid. I forgot to get my stuff out of the pocket of my jeans from yesterday. So I didn't have my keys or my cellphone, locked myself out of my apartment, and missed work."

"That is stupid," says Jensen. Immediately, he remembers this is not the right thing to say to a guy you want to sleep with.

Jared laughs again. "Tell me about it. So I figured I'd see if I could use your phone to call the landlord, and instead I hit you in the face."

"It's my fault," says Jensen. "I'm wearing my old glasses, my depth perception is off."

Jared scrunches up his face. "So take them off. Seriously, don't add bad glasses to head injury."

Jensen pulls them off, rubs his eyes. When he opens them again, Jared is a vague blur of colors in front of his face.

"You've got green eyes," says Jared, sounding surprised.

"Current science thinks it's a mutation," says Jensen.

"It's nice."

Jensen swallows. "Oh."

Jared clears his throat. "You need me to find your glasses for you?"

"On my bedside table, in the blue case," says Jensen. He watches the blur of Jared move away and starts analyzing everything about what Jared said, how he said it. He wishes he could have seen Jared's face. It would have told him a lot about Jared's possible sexual attraction to him.

Jared puts his glasses case in his hand a minute later. When the world comes back into focus, Jared's eyes give nothing about his potential feelings toward Jensen away. It's just Jensen's luck, really.

"Did you need the phone?"

"Yeah, that'd be great."

Jensen goes and gets it, and the moment passes. Jared calls the land lord, gets an estimate, and grins at Jensen. "Want to play Halo til he shows up?

"Do you like losing?" asks Jensen.

Jared just grins wider. "Bring it."

Half an hour later, Jensen has to admit it: Jared might not be a genius, but he's certainly more than a pretty face.

*

Jensen is feeling relatively good about his experiments with Jared by the next week. Jared has officially joined them on Thursday nights for Halo, and came for paintball on Saturday, during which time he purposefully targeted Chad every time he made an inappropriate comment. The groin hit was, perhaps, a little cruel, but Chad seems to have learned his lesson.

And Jared's comment on his eyes is still heartening. While Jensen does have genetically improbable eyes, most people don't comment on them. Jared noticing them, even without data on how he looked when he did so, is encouraging.

Jensen remains encouraged until he sees a small, brown-haired girl in the hall with Jared, and Jared kissing her on the cheek and squeezing her hand. She moves away a second later and waves as she bounces down the stairs.

Jared smiles fondly at her back before he notices Jensen. He turns his usual grin on Jensen, and Jensen finds himself wishing for the fondness he'd just seen. It's very irrational. Jared doesn't need to be fond of him to have sex with him.

Jared does, however, need to be at least bisexual. And while that possibility still exists, Jensen also has to factor in the data he now has about Jared's type. The girl was small--at least a foot shorter than Jared--and slight and very physically appealing. There are a lot of nerds who are at least the first two, but Jensen is not one of them. He's tall (enough that Gabe took several weeks to be able to speak around him) and solid and Jared apparently doesn't value those qualities in a partner.

Jensen refocuses when something moves in front of his face. It takes him a split second to register that it's Jared's hand.

"I know she's cute," Jared is saying, amused, "but staring at the place she was isn't going to bring her back, man."

"I wasn't staring," says Jensen. "I was involved in my own thoughts. I'm not interested in your girlfriend."

"Ex-girlfriend," says Jared. "Turns out we're better friends. Sure you're not interested? I can put in a good word."

"I'm mostly homosexual," says Jensen. "Women don't really interest me."

Jared blinks. "Oh. Uh." He rubs his neck. "I won't tell Sandy to call you then."

"It's beneficial for the overpopulated planet," says Jensen.

"What?"

"Homosexuality."

"Oh," says Jared. "Okay."

It occurs to Jensen that some people have prejudices against homosexuality. "Homophobia is irrational and usually based in fear," he says.

Jared laughs uncomfortably. "I'm not homophobic. I'm--sorry, I'm just surprised."

"I don't conform to most stereotypes," agrees Jensen. Neither does Chad, of course, and Chad keeps hitting on Jared, but Chad will hit on anything. Jensen thinks he can understand why Chad's bisexuality would be less surprising than Jensen's homosexuality.

Jared shakes his head. "You're something else, you know that?"

"I'm a genius," says Jensen. This really does explain most of his quirks. Geniuses tend to be incomprehensible to the mundane world.

"I noticed," says Jared. "I'm going to get a sandwich. You want to come?"

Jensen considers this. "Where?"

"I hadn't really decided yet."

"Can I pick?" asks Jensen.

"Sure."

Jensen tries not to think too much about the fact that, despite Jared's apparent straightness and his attraction to completely different type of person, Jensen still wants to spend time with him. Expanding one's social circle is good. It introduces new ideas and challenge's Jensen's brain.

And when Jared talks animatedly about this season of America's Next Top Model, it is nothing if not challenging.

*

Jared fits easily into Jensen's life, which is completely incomprehensible to Jensen. Very few people are interested in fitting into Jensen's life at all, and the ones who are usually do so because they don't have another choice. Jensen himself puts almost no effort into making friends, and he still isn't sure how he became friends with Gabe and Chad. It's rare that Jensen isn't sure of things, but most of what confuses him relates directly to human interaction.

Jared is required to at least speak with Jensen due to their physical proximity, but Jared will come over, just to talk. He'll listen to Jensen talk about concepts he doesn't begin to understand with an expression Jensen can't place. He'll play Halo, and bring pizza, and he even gets to be kind of friends with Chad.

Jensen doesn't understand it at all.

*

On their Thursday Halo night, Jared says, "Oh yeah, I'm having a party tomorrow night. You guys are totally welcome if you wanna come."

"Why are you having a party?" asks Jensen.

"It's Halloween."

"Fuck yeah!" says Chad. "Costumes?"

"Wouldn't be a Halloween party without costumes."

"Girls not wearing clothes! Man, Jay, living next to you is the best thing Jensen's ever done."

"Hey! Come on, what about my string theory work?"

"Nah," says Chad. "Have you seen how slutty girls get at Halloween?"

"I don't like girls," Jensen points out.

"Guys never get slutty," says Jared thoughtfully. "It's a cryin' shame."

"Trust me, dude," says Chad. "I'm gonna be slutty as hell."

"How about you guys?" asks Jared. "Jensen, Gabe, you wanna come?"

"We can wear costumes?" asks Jensen.

"Won't let you in if you don't," says Jared. "Absolutely required."

Gabe gives a thumbs up.

"You know there are going to be girls there, right?" says Jensen, looking at Gabe. Gabe nods, sadly.

"You don't like girls?" Jared asks. His continued attempts to talk to Gabe baffle Jensen; it's completely useless, but Jared doesn't give up.

"Loves girls," says Chad. "Just can't talk to them."

"Who can you talk to?"

Gabe rushes over to his computer.

"Oh, he's going to do the powerpoint," says Jensen. "I'm leaving."

"This is your house," Chad points out.

"I'm going to my room."

"But you're coming tomorrow, right?" asks Jared. He's looking over the back of the couch to Jensen, his eyes wide. It's a very unfair face, because it makes Jensen want to fuck him. Most of Jared's faces do that. Jensen isn't sure there has ever been anyone else in the world he wants to fuck as much as Jared Padalecki.

"Yeah," he says. "I'll be there."

*

Jensen doesn't do sexy. Jensen doesn't even do nerd chic, which his sister sends him articles about in a desperate attempt to "fix him." Mackenzie seems to think Jensen is going to die alone, which Jensen was sort of banking on, but she thinks it's bad. She approves of his clunky black frames but thinks he needs to get rid of all the plaid pants he owns, and possibly some he doesn't.

He hates calling her for help, but he has no idea what else to do.

"I need a sexually inviting Halloween costume for a party tonight," he says when she picks up. "Help."

There's silence for a minute. "You're going to a party? And you want to be sexually inviting? You?"

"Yes," he says. "Silence. Help me."

"Isn't there some nerd costume you can do? You have tons!"

"That's for conventions. And I don't think Jared would find my authentic Captain Picard outfit appealing. Besides, for authenticity I'd have to wear a bald cap, and I don't think that would help my chances."

She's silent again. "Jared, huh?"

"I want to have sex with him. At least three times."

"God, I want to be proud of you for getting hormones, but I also don't want to hear about your sex life."

"I've always had hormones. Everyone has hormones. And you're always telling me you want me to have a sex life!"

"I want you to have a relationship!" she says. "And then I'll pretend you and your boyfriend never have sex."

"Why would I have a boyfriend if I didn't have sex with him? Sex is the only good thing about having a boyfriend."

"How would you know, you've never had one." She sighs. "You know what, never mind. Tell me about Jared."

"He's six foot four, very muscular. He has a nice smile. He's a waiter but he wants to be an actor. He's from San Antonio. I think he's straight but I also think everyone is at least slightly bisexual in the right circumstances."

"What does he like?"

"Halo," says Jensen. "Dancing, parties, cars, paintball, steak, dogs..."

"Jesus," says Mackenzie. "Just, stop. Okay. You really like him, huh?"

"He's really hot," says Jensen. "Of course I do."

"No, I mean--nothing. Do you have a vest and some baggy pants? You haven't got a bad body, Jensen. You could be Aladdin."

"Do you have any idea how historically inaccurate that movie is?"

"No," she says. "Don't tell me."

"Well, it is," mutters Jensen.

"Jensen, just...wear something you like. It's not worth trying to be someone else to get a guy."

"Yes it is," says Jensen. "You haven't seen this guy, Mackenzie."

"Jensen, you love being yourself. I've never heard you this twisted up about anything."

"Fine," he says, "I'll still be myself. Just dressed differently. Clothes are not the core of a person's being."

"I'm hanging up," says Mackenzie. "It sounds like you're friends. He'll know something's up, so just be natural. But don't be Captain Picard either."

"How about--"

"Good luck with your crush, Jensen," she says, and hangs up.

"It's not a crush," he says to the room. Not that the room cares, but he feels like he has to say it. Jensen has never had a crush in his life. It's stupid, getting emotionally attached to people like that. Jensen just likes sex. He's never wanted sex with a friend before, but that's probably because he's never had an attractive friend before.

But it's not a crush.

*

Superman is not Jensen's favorite superhero. He prefers many others, actually--Batman, The Flash, Wolverine, Professor X, the list goes on--but Superman is an easy costume for the last minute. Or, rather, Clark Kent is. Jensen can leave his glasses on, a plus, and wear comfortable slacks and a button-down shirt, with the top few buttons undone, showing off his tight blue Superman shirt. It's not perfect, but Jensen thinks it looks 1. decently attractive and 2. relatively normal. Someone who did not own an authentic Captain Picard uniform could have come up with this costume.

Jensen nods to himself and surveys his hair.

It's getting too long, which means he could probably, if he really wanted to, put it in the little Clark Kent twirl at the front of his forehead. He can't figure out if it would look too stupid to be worth it.

"Dude," says Chad, "you gotta do that. Separates the Clark Kents from the dudes in ugly glasses."

"Fuck you, I like my glasses."

"Come on," says Chad. "I'll do your hair so good, Jared'll totally want to marry you."

"I don't want to marry him, I just want to fuck him," says Jensen, following Chad into the bathroom anyway. "Why does everyone think I want to marry him?"

"Cuz you totally want to marry him," says Chad.

"I hate agreeing with Chad, but he's got a point here," says Gabe. "You totally want to marry him."

"I want to die alone," says Jensen. "So shut up."

*

They arrive on time, which Jared patiently explains is actually early in party time. Jensen doesn't understand why anyone would tell people to show up at one time and then expect them to show up later. It seems completely irrational.

"Completely," Jared agrees.

"Then why do you do it?"

Jared sighs. "It's a social tradition that's become so ingrained it's impossible to change it."

Jensen blinks. He looks at Chad and Gabe, who are blinking too. "Oh," says Jensen. "Okay."

Jared beams. "I started pretending I'm Booth and Jensen's Bones and everything makes way more sense."

"No, I'm Spock, you're Bones," says Jensen.

"No, dude, Bones is that crime TV show with Angel on it," says Chad.

"Am I Angel?"

"Nah, you're the hot chick."

"She is pretty hot," Jared agrees. "Okay, you guys can chill out, I guess. Or you can go home for an hour, I don't care. Either way, I'm getting changed."

"You should follow him," whispers Chad. "Offer to help him change."

"How much bad porn do you watch?" asks Gabe.

"I'm not gonna dignify that with an answer," says Chad. "Come on, Jensen, he's totally telling you he wants you. Angel totally wants that chick."

Jensen rubs his forehead. "I'm not doing that, Chad."

"You just gonna get him drunk later?"

"He might drink," says Jensen. "And if something happens, something happens." Jensen is more intellectually than practically familiar with alcohol, but he knows from college that it almost always leads to sexual decisions that might not have been made otherwise.

It was a consideration of his for tonight.

He ignores the churning in his stomach when he thinks about that. It's probably nothing.

*

Jared's friends are all as Jensen would have expected--very normal people, who discuss TV, sports, movies, their jobs. Jensen mostly ends up observing them--or, more precisely, observing Chad with them. Chad has always had a rather overblown sense of his own desirability, and there's a certain beauty in watching him get completely shot down.

Besides, Gabe is hiding behind him, so Jensen feels bad moving too much.

Jared is dressed up as the devil--at least, he has little horns and a red shirt and he's drawn a black goatee on his face. He's also carrying a pitchfork, and Jensen is alerted to his presence when Jared pokes him in the side with it.

"Ow," says Jensen.

"You're Superman," says Jared, grinning. "You can take it."

"That's a secret," says Jensen, smiling back.

"Then you really need to button up your shirt," he retorts. He continues, "You guys need to work on your sociability. Something halfway between what you're doing now and what Chad's doing now."

"Gabe can't interact with people," Jensen points out.

"Yeah? So what's your excuse?" Jared asks.

"I don't want to."

Jared knocks Jensen's shoulder with his own. "Come on, it's--"

And then Jared freezes, stiffens, and his face changes. Jensen's never really seen Jared upset before, but he recognizes it now, the way Jared's face shuts down.

"What is it?" asks Jensen.

"It's, uh." Jared leans down and quiets his voice. "My ex just showed up."

"Sandy?"

"No, um. Tom."

Jensen takes this in. "Boyfriend?"

"I was gonna tell you guys," says Jared, rubbing the back of his neck. "I was going to when you told me but--yeah. Anyway. I didn't think he was gonna come."

Jensen's eyes are fixed on the man who's just come in. He isn't like Sandy at all--he's tall, almost as tall as Jared, and muscular. He's dressed as, of all things, Superman, which makes Jensen feel tiny and lame in comparison, even though he is well aware he's neither of those things. But Tom looks like he was born to be the man of steel. Jensen gulps involuntarily.

"Why did you invite him?" Jensen manages.

"I didn't," says Jared, rubbing his forehead. "Someone else must have mentioned it. Fucking shit, he's a bastard."

"So don't talk to him," says Jensen.

"I'm not," says Jared. "I'm talking to you."

Jensen can't help but be heartened by the comparison.

At least, he is until Tom comes over. "Who're you supposed to be?" Tom asks without preamble.

"Clark Kent," he says.

Tom snorts. "Not the best costume for you, shrimp."

Jensen can't help being rankled by that. "I know way more about Superman than you ever will," Jensen says, "and I'm six-feet-tall. You're just jealous I went for Clark Kent and got out of wearing spandex."

Jared snickers while Tom looks pissed. "You've really downgraded friends since we dated, Jay. I remember when you had cool parties."

"Were you not at them?" asks Jensen.

"I ate guys like you for breakfast in high school," says Tom. "Don't mess with me."

"I had already had a graduate degree when you were in high school," says Jensen. "Did you even get the high school one?"

In a flash, Tom's got Jensen shoved up against the wall, his fist in Jensen's shirt. Gabe has skittered out of the way somehow, for which Jensen is grateful, but the pounding in his head kind of sucks.

"Jesus Christ, Tom!" says Jared, and Jensen sees him drag Tom back. "Don't fucking beat up my guests at my party."

"Don't get such wussy friends," Tom mutters. He stalks off while Jensen struggles to look completely unflapped and not in pain. Which is difficult because the wind was pretty well knocked out of him.

Jared holds his arm to steady him. "Are you okay, man?"

Jensen coughs. "Yeah, you know. Awesome."

"God, I'm sorry. I'm just gonna go kick Tom the fuck out, seriously."

"Don't worry about it," says Jensen. "I'm gonna head out anyway."

"Jensen, you don't have to--"

"Come on, Jared. This is more partying than I've ever done in my life," says Jensen. "I'm just gonna go home and watch Battlestar Galactica."

Jared looks like he might say something else, but Jensen just takes off. His body hurts, his head hurts, and his chest aches. He has no idea how a night where he found out that Jared actually is bi (even if he's unfortunately into guys more muscular than Jensen could ever dream of being) went so wrong. It's annoying, and he's done with it.

"Thanks for coming," says Jared quietly. "I'm sorry Tom's a dick."

"Sorry you ever had to date him."

Jared laughs hollowly. "I have the worst taste in guys, seriously."

"Lucky me," says Jensen. "I'll see you later."

"Paintball tomorrow, right?" says Jared, sounding hopeful.

"Yes," says Jensen. And then he drags himself to his room and falls on the couch, waiting to die.

Given his current age and physical fitness, barring some kind of natural disaster, it's going to be a long wait.

*

When Jensen wakes up, it's the middle of the night outside and there's a steady noise at the door.

Jensen staggers over, shoving his glasses up as he rubs his hand over his face. They're crooked on his nose when he reaches the door, and he expects to see Chad or Gabe at the door, but it's Jared.

"Hey," says Jared. He's hunched forward a little, leaning heavily on the frame. "Hey, Jensen."

"Hi," says Jensen. "What's up?"

"I'm gonna kill someone," says Jared. "Tom found Mike and they're fucking best friends and Tom won't leave." He collapses down on Jensen's couch. Warily, Jensen follows, sits down beside him.

"So you ran away from your own party?"

"Yes. Why are all my friends jerks?"

"Some of them seemed fine."

"You're not too bad."

"I'm emotionally stunted," Jensen says. "And somehow I don't think before I say stuff, even though I never stop thinking."

Jared's head lolls back on the couch. He turns slowly, smiles. "I like you anyway."

Jensen swallows. There's something warm in his stomach, and he can smell alcohol on Jared's breath. "I knew you weren't too bright," says Jensen thickly.

"I'm really sorry," says Jared. "About Tom."

"It's okay."

"Don't know why I date guys like that," says Jared. "Dunno..."

And then he leans in and kisses Jensen.

Jensen hasn't thought much about kissing Jared. He's primarily thought about fucking Jared, and kissing Jared didn't particularly enter into his mind.

It's good. Jared pushes his way into Jensen's mouth, one giant hand on Jensen's cheek as his tongue traces over Jensen's teeth. It's only when he finds himself flat on his back that he tastes the alcohol in Jared's mouth and remembers that Jared--Jared doesn't want this.

He puts his hands on Jared's chest carefully, pushing him up. Jared moans as he goes back, and that almost kills Jensen's resolve.

"How much have you had to drink?" asks Jensen.

"Lot," mutters Jared.

"Jared, man, we can't--"

"Yeah," says Jared roughly, pushing himself off the couch. "I'm sorry, man."

"Jared--"

But Jared lets himself out, leaves.


Part two.