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Jensen rubbed his hand over his face before he nodded and pushed the empty Heineken bottle towards the bartender.
“Well you’ve got to admit that when the CW wants to show solidarity it goes all out.”
He shut his eyes and fervently wished that he was anywhere but where he was or barring that, that it wasn’t Chad Michael Murray standing beside him.
Grudgingly though he had to admit that Chad was right even if the network was wrong. There had been rumblings, since before the new shooting season, in the actor’s guild about a pending strike if the production big wigs didn’t sign the new contract and that had been almost five weeks before. So far the couple of times the two sides had met, mediator included, things had not gone well and Jensen had to wonder if either side had learnt from the writer’s strike the year before. Just as he wondered what the hell the CW was trying to prove but throwing an impromptu “Appreciation for Our Actors” party in L.A. He couldn’t decide if they were hoping to sway the actors who worked for the network to vote against a strike if it came down to it or if they were showing their backing for their actors. Either way, it sucked.
Like he hadn’t been working his ass off for fourteen hours a day, six days a week since the start of the new season and add to that the constant control it took to be around Jared, to pretend it didn’t slice through him to see his ex constantly, act the professional when all he wanted to do was either punch Jared or forgive him and take him back. It had made everything so tense, everyone on the crew tip-toed around them; there were no more jokes or pranks, hardly any smiles. At least it worked for the tone of the episodes they had already shot.
But to be forced to attend a farce of a function with Jared and to smile and be all buddy-buddy with him, after all that, pretty much tore him apart. And now he was expected to play nice with Murray because the omnipotent cameras where watching.
Just fucking kill me now.
“Go away Murray.” He nodded his thanks to the bartender as his fresh beer was set in front of him. Lifting it to his lips, he took a long pull, hoping that Chad would get the hint and bugger off if he didn’t look at him or show any interest in what he had to say.
“I punched Jared that day.” Chad started as he sat down beside him at the bar.
Huh. That kind of surprised him. Chad was Jared’s best friend, he always assumed that he had automatically taken his ex’s side in this mess. A part of him wanted to ask Chad what the hell had happened, a very large part since he was still refusing to speak to Jared if it wasn’t in character but he wouldn’t give into the curiosity. He didn’t dare because this might be a set up and he had worked too damn hard to make Jared believe that he didn’t give a damn, that his betrayal hadn’t affected him as badly as it did.
“Yeah and? You want my approval? A handshake? My thanks?” He tilted his head so that he could glare at him, “I’m not a wilting flower Murray. I don’t need anyone to stand up for me.”
Chad rolled his eyes, “Christ Ackles tone down the aggression. I just wanted you to understand that I’m pissed off about what happened too but there is something that I think you need to know.”
And here it comes. He thought bitterly but not surprised. “I don’t suppose telling you that I don’t give a flying fuck will shut you up will it?”
He snorted, “Has that ever stopped me from gifting others with my wisdom?”
Jensen shook his head and had to swallow a grin, he and Chad may never have been the closest of friends but looking at him now, he realized he had missed the idiot. He was one of those people that kind of rubbed off on a person and seemed to have the uncanny ability to cheer someone up, no matter what the problem.
“It won’t change anything.” He warned, hoping to forgo the poor Jared speech.
He didn’t need Chad telling him that Jared was suffering from their split. He might be acting like he didn’t give a shit but that didn’t mean he couldn’t see the effects of their split with his own eyes. He knew Jared wasn’t sleeping, after being together for a year and a half and the years spent as just friends, he could recognize what the dark circles under his eyes and the fine tremor in his hands meant. Just like he knew that his ex wasn’t eating properly, not that he’d ever been the poster boy for healthy eating but he had seen the way his clothes were hanging off him.
But he also knew that, honestly, he wasn’t doing much better so fuck both of them if they thought the way to his heart was through the pity plea.
“That night,” Chad signalled to the bartender for another of whatever it was he was drinking out of a hi-ball glass before he continued. “Jay and I got pretty shit faced.”
Ahh the “Can’t blame me I was drunk” excuse. He was disappointed, Chad was known for better lines than that.
He turned and stared hard at him, “Thing is Jensen, neither of us can remember leaving the club, never mind who left with us.”
He shrugged, after all this time and the burning curiosity, this was the way things had gone down? What? Sandy had taken advantage of a shit faced Jared? The sad fact was that it was so pathetic that it was probably true.
Problem was, it didn’t change anything, Jensen knew there had been nights he had fallen head first into a bottle when Jared wasn’t around and he never woke up with someone else. Somewhere in the back of his booze soaked mind, something kept his dick in his pants, so there was no reason Jared couldn’t. Not if Jensen had mattered as much as he should have.
Chad smirked, “I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking but there’s more.”
He raised an eyebrow, what “more” could there possibly be? “I await with baited breath.” He was proud that his voice only held sarcasm, not the hurt that physically discussing that night was dragging back to the surface.
“Look,” he blew out a breath, “What I’m going to tell you Jared swore me to secrecy but I think he should have told you himself a long time ago. Maybe if he had…” He tapered off and stared down at the fresh amber liquid before him.
“Maybe you should keep it to yourself then.”
“Looking back I think it was probably one of the worst kept secrets, at least here in L.A.” Chad continued as if he hadn’t even heard him. “When Jared and Sandy first met it was pretty intense. She was older but didn’t treat him like a kid and that went a long way with him. And, as far as I know, the first year was good. She was always talking him up, like he was the next up and comer. How Jared was going places.”
Despite himself, Jensen was interested in what he was hearing. Sure he had met Sandy, had even gone out with Jared and her when she would come down to Vancouver but he really didn’t know anything about their relationship. Jared hadn’t really shared much when it came to her and it had always struck Jensen as strange since he would never shut up about anything else.
Chad took a sip of his drink and shook his head. “Jared loved Sandy but Sandy loved the idea of being taken care of, no matter what she says. I suppose once Jared wasn’t making the money nor had the fame that she had expected she started shopping around. At first Jay didn’t know but it became hard to ignore when people were either telling you they had seen her with this guy or this guy or were laughing at you behind your back. But Jay has his pride and it was probably that pride that convinced him that she was simply sowing her wild oats.”
He snorted and glanced at Jensen before turning back to his drink. “They hadn’t even talked about marriage at this point but she was already sowing her wild oats.”
He felt his hands curl into fists, not completely sure if his anger was towards Sandy for treating Jared like that or at Jared for staying.
“Anyway it got worse and worse but despite that Jay proposed because his family didn’t know anything about what was going on and there was some pressure from back home for him to make an honest woman out of her. And probably because he still wanted to believe that deep down she did love him. But then he showed up unannounced one night when he was supposed to be in Texas with his family at their place here in L.A. and found her in bed with another guy. He says it was the first time he’d actually caught her and until then he could deny everything. He couldn’t after that.”
He pushed the half full glass away from him and turned to stare Jensen in the eye. “They split up, which you already know. I don’t know what he told you the reason was but that’s the truth.”
It was an interesting story and it did make him want to smack her for doing that to Jared, regardless what his momma would say. But it didn’t change anything between them, if nothing else it made him wonder why Jared thought he should be forgiven when he knew, knew, what it was like to find the one you love in bed with someone else.
“Thing is Jensen,” Chad continued, “That’s the shit I know about but I also know there’s shit there that he hasn’t told me because I know that he felt insecure about you. Partially because of her sleeping around but there’s more there because he’s always loved you in one form or another even though by the time he met you he was already pretty jaded because of her.” He tilted his head to the side, “Well that and the one time I suggested he tell you about his insecurities about you finding someone better and why, he freaked out and told me that he wasn’t going to be some clingy, insecure bitch. That if you wanted to go out on your own or with others without him then he would just suck it up and smile.”
Jensen shook his head, “Chad it doesn’t…”
Chad held up a hand, “He knew that you and Chris have a history Jensen and he was pretty concerned about it when you went to spend the weekend with him and Steve.”
“He had to know…”
Chad laughed bitterly, cutting him off once again, “No Jensen he didn’t have to know anything beyond what he already knew and whatever mind games Sandy played with him while they were together. I’m not giving him an excuse but he was already a mess that night and Sandy’s always known what buttons to push.”
He stood up, “Like I said it’s not an excuse but I wanted you to know everything that I know.” He shrugged, “The kid fucked up Jensen but then who hasn’t?”
He watched Chad walk away, wondering about the last bit. Wondering if Chad knew exactly what his history with Chris was and if that was the bit about “who hasn’t”, because that was an entirely different situation and could not be applied to this. No fucking way.
“Well aren’t you just the most interesting guest here this evening.”
Jensen shut his eyes and sighed. Without looking, he knew exactly who was beside him, he couldn’t mistake a voice he had heard keen, or beg, or growl.
He turned his head and offered a slight smile up at his newest companion. “Justin.”
He had forgotten how the brown of Justin’s eyes could look almost suede like when he got that soft look in them. How his smile always seemed to hint at something dirty but fun if you’d only trust him long enough. It had been those two features that drew Jensen to him in the first place when they had been introduced at a party there in L.A. years before.
“Mind if I?” Justin gestured at the barstool Chad had so recently vacated.
Jensen shrugged but didn’t begrudge him as his ex settled beside him. They may have been lovers once but somehow they had managed to defy the odds and part as, maybe not friends, but at least amicably enough that he didn’t mind sharing space with him.
“So tell me Jen, why are you sitting here at the bar all by yourself instead of cohorting around the party with your co-star?”
And it starts. He thought bitterly but managed to reign in the resentment. He hadn’t spoken to Justin, really spoken to him, in almost five years and it was doubtful that he knew much, if anything about Jensen’s private life. Sure he was on Smallville with Tom and Tom knew that they had a history but he wasn’t the type to go running and spill his guts.
“Jared and I are trying our own things.”
He knew it wasn’t an answer, not anywhere near a real one but he just wasn’t up to explaining anything about what was really going on in his life. If he was refusing to open up to his closest friends, he sure as hell wasn’t going to open up to Justin, history or not.
Justin raised an eyebrow, his disbelief obvious, but he nodded like he could accept it all the same. “So how goes the show?”
“Hell.” He answered without thinking.
Both eyebrows rose at that.
Shit! He hadn’t meant to say that, it wasn’t even what he really felt, well not in general terms. It was just, having to be around Jared, pretty much 24/7 and acting like he could give a rat’s ass about it that was hell.
“I mean lots of emotional crap going on this season. It makes it tough.” He took a long pull from his bottle, “How about you? Still liking Smallville?”
“Yeah, it’s a blast.” He shrugged before he casually rested his left arm on the bar and leaned into Jensen, supporting himself with his right arm on the back of Jensen’s barstool. “It kind of sucks not having Mike around but life goes on right?”
Something tugged hard in Jensen’s chest, Tom was allowing him his space, Chris and Steve were too busy with their own lives to really afford to put everything on hold and fly out and demand answers but Mike. If Mike had still been in Vancouver, he would have forced himself into Jensen’s apartment and annoyed the hell out of him until he got the whole story and then probably would have taken it upon himself to be Jensen’s one man cheer up squad.
If Mike was still in Vancouver and all that had gone down, it would have pissed him off. But Mike was not around and doing it, it suddenly hit him just how much he missed the nut.
“You know he’ll eventually show up just to make sure he’s still in the loop gossip wise.”
Justin laughed, “Yeah he’s worse than a woman.”
He grinned, “He does like his gossip.”
His eyes flickered behind Jensen, “Jared’s looking kind of pissed.”
Jensen forced himself not to turn around, I don’t care. He reminded himself silently but couldn’t stop his mouth. “What do you mean?”
He shrugged, “He’s standing over with Tom but he’s staring this way. You guys have a fight or something?” He turned to stare at him, “Come on man you know you can tell me. I still care Jen.”
He shook his head and stifled the urge to put some space between them. Comfortable around Justin or not, he didn’t like the way he was invading his space but he refused to do anything about it when Jared was watching. “There is nothing to tell.”
Justin held up his hands, palms up, in a placating gesture. “Okay.”
He toyed with a coaster on the bar top for a minute before turned back. “You want to get out of here?”
Jensen raised an eyebrow, “You coming on to me Hartley? Because as flattered as I am, I’m not really in the mood.”
He grinned, “Not that I would turn down a walk down memory lane but I was more thinking you, me, a bar and a game of pool.”
If it had been anyone else he would have been embarrassed for jumping to conclusions but had he been willing to jump into bed with Justin his ex wouldn’t have refused him. That was the thing with him, he always asked questions with a quick out, so you never knew exactly what it was he was asking.
He had tried to convince himself all night that it was his imagination, the feeling of Jared staring at him but if what Justin was saying was true then it had probably been happening all night and he was ready for it to be over. Besides which, he had never been big on network parties, only ever really learned to enjoy them with Jared at his side and now it was back to painful discomfort and stilted conversations.
Ex lover or not, spending time away from here with anyone, even Justin, seemed a hell of a lot better than staying and getting progressively drunker. “Shoot some stick huh?”
He smirked, “I’m going to kick your ass Hartley.”
Justin rolled his eyes as he stood, “Keep telling yourself that Ackles.”
Jensen stood and followed Justin out of the hotel ballroom, ignoring the urge to turn and look for Jared.
Jared smiled, blandly, at the network exec going on and on about how great Supernatural was, how it was underrated, how because of the early numbers for the fourth season it was almost a foregone conclusion that there would be a fifth and on and on and on.
Vaguely he supposed he should probably feel vindicated or happy or something about what the guy was saying but he just didn’t really give a shit. Especially since he didn’t recognize the guy, guessed he was new and didn’t yet get that the CW was more concerned with its fluff shows. He would learn.
I sound like Jensen.
The thought was a sharp jab in the stomach that would have had him doubling over if he hadn’t already had far too much practice tonight in locking his knees and pretending all was right with the world. He was pretty proud of himself actually, considering he and Jensen had been instructed that they had to walk in together, had to act like everything was the same between them, that they were still just two buddies with shared Texas roots and a friendship that was quick to form and unbreakable.
If the reporters and fans only knew the truth, but they didn’t know that that night was the first time in months that he and Jensen had been near each other when they weren’t Sam and Dean. They didn’t know that the limo had been the first time they had been in the same vehicle in forever and that the ride had been tense and silent. They didn’t know how many times he had to clench his jaw and strengthen his legs to stop himself from falling to his knees and begging Jensen for just five minutes. Five minutes to explain himself, to beg for forgiveness and plead for another chance.
But Jared was a professional so they wouldn’t figure out the truth, not from him. He smiled, threw his arm around Jensen’s shoulders, ignoring the tensing of muscles and played his part with all his heart. And he didn’t argue when, after they got into the ballroom, Jensen twisted out from under his grip and slipped away.
Before he had had the chance to follow and maybe finally force him to listen, hoping Jensen’s intense desire to keep his life private would stop him from making a scene, Jared had been dragged off to kiss up to the powers that be. And then there had been Chad appearing at his side and, surprisingly, rescuing him for a time.
Things between him and Chad were still a little shaky. It was unexpectedly pleasing to learn that his friend actually thought highly enough about Jensen that he had yet to completely forgive Jared for his fuck up. But at least there was enough, if not understanding, acceptance of his side of things to still be friends with him. Granted, it was slightly strained but still at least he hadn’t lost one of the only close friends he had left.
However it didn’t stop Chad from buggering off after the third exec came up and started talking about the ratings and the show’s direction and giving some constructive criticism.
Which is how he found himself smiling thinly and nodding, at what he hoped were appropriate places and trying not to fidget.
He turned his head and flashed a halfhearted smile at Tom, surprised to find him standing there. Tom, of course, had pretty much taken up Jensen’s side in this mess and had more or less cut off all communication with Jared. It had hurt but he had accepted it with as much good grace as possible since Tom had always been more Jensen’s friend than his anyway.
“I’m sorry,” Tom shrugged his shoulders and flashed his boy next door smile down at the network exec. “But I need to steal Jared away. Eric needs to speak with him.”
Eric? He knew Eric was floating around somewhere but he was the one that had told them to mingle and pretend to want to be there.
He couldn’t think of a reason why Eric would want to talk with him unless it had something to do with Jensen. They had been straightforward with their producer when things had gotten serious between them and had been told as long as it didn’t affect his show that he didn’t care. It had been kind of surprising in a way but it had no means had come as a shock when he wasn’t as blasé when Jared had told him they had split during hiatus. In fact Jared could clearly picture his face when he swore he’d kill both of them if they couldn’t work together anymore and this screwed his show. Jared was pretty sure he had been completely serious.
It was probably one of the reasons why he had worked so hard over the last month and a bit, not that he was particularly worried about Eric actually killing him but because their producer hadn’t kicked up a stink when he had first found out about them. That and his stalwart refusal to not be the professional he knew he could be, especially when Jensen seemed to care so little about the whole damn mess.
Still he really, really, hoped he wasn’t expected to stand still while more pictures were taken of him and Jensen, smiling, laughing and pretending. Professional or not, he just didn’t think he’d be able to pull it off.
He let Tom take him by the upper arm and pull him away. He was surprised when he was pulled into a quiet corner with no Eric and a good view of the bar and of Jensen sitting with Justin Hartley. Justin who was leaning his left arm on the bar, his right resting proprietary on the back of Jensen’s chair.
What the fuck?
“You looked like you were about ready to bolt.” Tom said from his side. “I thought I’d save you.”
Jared glanced at him from the corner of his eye, at the sparkle in his blue gaze and knew exactly what was going on. The only thing he couldn’t figure out was if Jensen was in on it or not.
He took a steadying pull from the warm beer in his hand, his second of the night, he’d learned his lesson and wasn’t about to forget it any time soon. “Yeah thanks.”
“So how are you doing Jared?”
He sighed and shook his head, “Skip it Tom. I know I act like the big adorable goof but I’m not stupid.” He glared at him for a moment before turning back towards Jensen and Justin. “How long has that been going on?”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Tom shift guiltily and felt a surge of satisfaction.
“Recently, I’d say that nothing is actually going on between them. But they used to date back before Jensen signed on to do Supernatural.”
Jared had to swallow down the hurt he could feel rising. Jensen had never told him that he and Justin Hartley had dated and he had to wonder just how seriously considering they seemed to be getting along just fine at the bar. But then again Justin had probably never fucked over Jensen the way Jared had so why wouldn’t he be afforded a real smile and the silent permission to be in his ex fiancé’s space.
He forced himself to nod and took another swig from his beer.
“Huh.” Tom muttered as they watched Justin lean closer. “I could be wrong about the nothing has been going on recently bit.”
He clenched his jaw and refused to give in to the stinging at the back of his eyes. Jensen had made it clear, crystal clear, that he had never really cared as much for Jared as Jared had for him. He shouldn’t let this hurt as bad as it did. He should be happy that things had ended when they had, instead of Jensen leaving him at the altar or something. He shouldn’t still want to at least try to explain to him what had happened. He shouldn’t still want him so badly that it was a constant physical ache.
Damn it he was so, so fucked.
A part of him was pissed at Tom for pulling this kind of shit, the guy could be a pissy bitch when the mood took him, but a larger part of him felt it was nothing less than he deserved. At least he had undeniable proof that Jensen had moved on and it was time for him to give up and do the same.
“Jared, I just…”
He held up a hand and had to swallow down bile as he watched Jensen and Justin start to walk out of the ballroom, shoulders brushing before he forced himself to turn away. “Goodnight Tom.”
He ignored the apology he could detect in Tom’s voice, not caring if it was legit or not. He just needed to get out, get to his hotel room, drop a sleeping pill, since he couldn’t trust himself not to call Jensen if he got pissed before he passed out, and sleep until he could go back to Vancouver.