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Single Male Seeking Same
Jared/Jensen AU; NC-17; 26,000 words
Fed up with dating women who never meet his expectations, Jensen answers a singles' ad, and gets much more than he bargained for.

Notes: Before we begin, I must express my gratitude to some lovely people. Firstly, lilyvalley73 and nu_breed, who acted as cheerleaders and betas and life coaches, and were unbelievably supportive and helpful, reading multiple versions of this and offering their very, very good advice. I don't think this fic would be finished if this wasn't for you two. Thank you so, so much. Also, crazy amounts of thanks to wendy and glendaglamazon, who both jumped in to offer fresh eyes to the finished piece, and to offer their Texas!fu. *hugs you all like mad*

I started writing this back in January for abouttwoboys and then let it languish for quite a while. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the fantastic film Kissing Jessica Stein, but I've taken some liberty with the plot and changed the ending, so if you haven't yet seen the film, you will not be spoiled. If you have seen it, hopefully this will offer something new for you.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”
Jack Kerouac

The familiar thwack of paper being thrown onto his desk caught Jensen's attention, and he shot an impatient glance up to see perfectly manicured nails, pretty and glossy-pink, tap tap tapping on the first page of the stack.

The first page that was fairly covered in sloppy red ink.

"What the…?" Jensen scowled, glaring hard at the owner of the polished nails. "I spent a lot of time on this."

"I can tell," Danneel said, red lips pulled low into a frown, eyes brown and bright. "But it's too long." She perched on the corner of his desk, navy skirt sliding up her bare thighs. Jensen was torn between ogling the pale skin there, and informing her that she was sitting on a copy of his next story. He settled for glowering at her until she stood up with an annoyed huff, rolling her eyes.

From somewhere just beyond Jensen's cubical, a fax machine gave a high, thin wail, like a hungry baby's cry. Phones rang. People fretted about deadlines and got their stories ripped to shreds, and it was just another day at the office.

Jensen sighed and clutched the carefully typed pages in his left hand. "Marcus Freeman is a local legend. When the man talks, you listen." He gestured widely. "You don't write a blurb about him and expect that to be enough."

"Listen, Jen, I – " Danneel began.


"Fine. Listen, Jensen, I appreciate that. I do. But it's too long. We can only run the story if it's less than 500 words."

"But – "

"People aren't going to read it if it's longer," Danneel told him, not unkindly. "Save the creative writing for something that's not a failing weekly magazine."

"But – "

"If you don't fix it, I will."

Jensen jutted his chin out. "Fine."


Turning away from her, Jensen needlessly adjusted his glasses and spread the story out beside his keyboard. The thing looked bloody, red all over. He scowled at Danneel again, waiting for her exit. When she continued to stand there, Jensen edgily asked, "Was there something else?"

She hesitated for a second. "You took your camera, yeah? Get anything good?"

"No," Jensen said, studying the white, pearly buttons on her shirt.

Giving a sigh, Danneel murmured, "Jensen," and the sound was familiar, full of defeat and exasperation. Jensen had heard it enough in the past five years to last two lifetimes, and he didn't particularly think he deserved it now. Yes, he'd taken his camera along on the interview – he always did – but he'd spent hours pouring over the results, and what he'd determined was that the whole pile was shit.

"Nothing good," he insisted. "Tell Nick to run what he took."

"Maybe I could take a look," Danneel wheedled, "just to be sure…."

"They're all crap, Danny. Trust me."

Danneel's lips curved in an unhappy smile. "It's Danneel. And if you say they're all crap, then that's your business, but you didn't go to school in New York just to end up wasting your potential here, did you?"

That was rich, coming from her. Jensen laughed. "You wanna talk to me about wasted potential?"

The sad smile fell away from Danneel's face, and her eyes went cold. "Point taken," she said briskly, signaling to the story. "I need a revised copy of that to me by 8AM tomorrow."

Glancing at the clock on his computer, Jensen's eyes went round and he griped, "Dude, it's four thirty."

"So that means you have plenty of time."

"You want a revised copy of this in less than twenty-four hours."

"I do. What? You got big plans tonight?"

"As a matter of fact, I have a date." He felt a hot swoop of satisfaction at being able to say that, and at the brief look of surprise on Danneel's face before she covered it with her usual, careful blank smile.

"Wow. I'd better leave you to get to work, then."

"I guess so."

She turned to leave, finally, but stopped suddenly, hand braced against the cubicle wall. "Jensen?"

"What?" Jensen huffed, fingers already clicking on his keyboard.

"Don't be too hard on your date tonight, 'K?"

Not taking his eyes off his computer screen, Jensen asked, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It just means…people aren't perfect. Give 'em a break, and they might surprise you."

Finally, Jensen turned to look at her. She glanced at him briefly, then turned to study the Kerouac quote he had tacked up inside his cubicle. Jensen watched her eyes follow the words, the 'burn burn burn.'

Eventually, he claimed, "I don't expect perfection."

Danneel snorted.

He narrowed his eyes. "I don't! Expecting a modicum of intelligence and a decent sense of humor doesn’t equate to expecting perfection. And expecting someone to be passionate about something other than…than manicures and who Tom Cruise is married to isn't a crime."

That earned him a long, slow glare. "Well, if she doesn't get your pretentious jokes on the first go 'round, don't be a judgmental ass, that's all I'm saying."

His lips thinned into a straight line; he pressed them together so hard it hurt. "Are we done? I have to work on this."

Danneel nodded. "Yeah, we're done."

The invitation to the show was simple, clean lines and elegant script, reflecting the artists' work. Melissa and Brad Abrams, it said. Art House Gallery – May 1, 2008 – Seven O'clock, with a quote from the Dallas Arts Review raving about the husband and wife team's "refined shapes and simplified expression."

At just after seven thirty, the place was already packed, champagne flowing, voices buzzing, and with any luck, money would soon start exchanging hands.

Not that Jared was out on the floor to appreciate it.

"Just fuck me already," a voice, feminine, low and smoke-cured, purred right into his ear, and Jared's eyes nearly rolled back in his head in anticipation.

The low thrum of music pumping from the main gallery floor shook the back office, made the high desk Jared had lifted Melissa up on vibrate slightly. He mouthed along her pale, freckled neck, bending low to bite a nipple through her bra, turning the lace fabric translucent and wet.

She keened, low in her throat, and blindly reached for the fly of his dress pants.

Pushing up her skirt, Jared grunted, "God, you're brilliant." He shoved two fingers inside her panties; she was already sopping, swearing low and filthy in his ear.

"We don't have a lot of time," she insisted. "Do it."

"Fucking bossy," he mumbled, already pulling her hips forward, canting them off the desk and sinking into her. His hips jerked, pants barely down around his ass, as he pumped himself into her.

God, he loved opening night.

Not ten minutes later he was back on the gallery floor, watching Melissa walk up to a group of people – her husband included – looking like the cat that got the cream, a large, satisfied smile firmly planted on her face. Jared hid a smug grin, ran a hand through his hair, straightened his tie, and sauntered to the refreshment table, filling a plastic cup with wine.

He studied the room packed full with big brass sculptures and swanky guests with a relaxed smile tugging at his lips. For him, the hard part was over. Not that Jared would admit it to her, but the wining and dining of potential buyers, that was really Sandy's forte.

In the dim, artsy light, he watched Sandy now, all five feet, four inches of her, expertly making her rounds throughout the gallery, filling up wine glasses, introducing people, directing the caterers and keeping a pretty smile on her perfectly made-up face. They all had their roles to play in running the gallery, and it worked well. Adrianne was in charge of the money; Jared had to find the artists, get the patrons in the door; but it was Sandy who had the knack for sizing up a person, knowing if they were just here for the free wine and mini-quiches or if they were prepared to shell out cash.

She claimed it was the expensive psych degree she never got around to using, but Jared figured it was something innate, how easily she read people.

And that was just fine with him. Jared loved this part, certainly: the lights just dim enough to make everyone pretty; the admiring eyes; the heady scents of expensive perfume mingled with wine and anticipation. There was a buzz to openings, a spark that filled him up, watching a show take off, watching happy patrons laugh and congratulate the artists, but this was his time to relax, and he was certainly very good at it.

Jared peered around and saw Adrianne standing in the corner, studying the room with sharp eyes. "You look awfully smug," she commented with a bright smile when he took his cup over to where she stood, her blond hair a halo in the dim light.

"Just like to see a job well done."

"It seems to be going well. I don't know how you manage to find these artists."

"I'm just really, really good."

"Uh huh," Sandy said, coming up behind Jared. She had a bottle of expensive merlot in one hand. Sandy looked at Adrianne. "You need any more, babe?"

"Please." Adrianne held out a cup, her long fingers holding it steady while Sandy filled it almost to the top.

"That's the last of it," she said, when Jared held his cup out for more. "Also, when you fuck one of the artists – whose husband is in the freaking building - you don't get more wine." Her brown eyes were dark and furious, mouth pulled low into a frown; she looked like she wanted to scratch Jared's eyes out.

"You're beautiful when you're angry," Jared told her.

"Fuck off, Jared," Sandy spat, loudly.

"Honey," Adrianne said gently, soothing a hand along Sandy's arm. Jared watched Sandy take a deep, calming breath. "It's okay."

"Yeah, relax, McCoy. No one saw anything." Jared smirked, watching Sandy take another deep breath and an even deeper gulp of her wine.

She gave him a sharp look. "'Cause that's the point."

Jared shrugged. "Your job is to deal with the customers," he casually informed her, pointing a finger her way before snagging a blue-cheese stuffed mushroom off a passing tray. "My job is deal with the artists, find 'em, bring 'em in, and then keep 'em happy. I take that very, very seriously." He gave a wicked grin.

"Well," a rich voice hummed behind him. "You do a good job of keeping the customers happy as well, Jared."

Jared spun around to see Moira Closon, a particularly attractive and relatively young widow, hungrily watching him. He let his lips curve into a flirty half smile. "The pleasure is all mine, Moira."

She smiled a slow smile, full of heat, and looked like a tiger ready to pounce. Even in the diffuse light of the gallery floor, her red nails gleamed and her teeth looked stark white against her cherry-colored lipstick. Jared felt anticipation pool in his gut. "Actually, Jared, if you don't mind, I have a pressing question about a piece I saw." She glanced between Sandy and Adrianne. "You ladies don't mind if I borrow him for a moment, do you? I was wondering if we could discuss this further in the privacy of the back room."

Not waiting for Sandy and Adrianne's replies, Jared licked his lips and tipped an imaginary hat at them. "If you'll excuse me, ladies."

He reached into his pocket and felt about, fingers closing on a square condom packet, and followed Moira's slim, swaying hips to the back of the gallery.

He really, really loved opening night.

It was well after one by the time everyone was out the door. Nearly half the sculptures – glass or bronze – found object or not – had a tiny blue sold sticker next to them. The lights were all up, bright white and harsh, and plastic cups littered every stationary surface that wasn't reserved for art. The thumping music had been turned off, and the quiet was soothing. Jared had whipped off his shoes and socks the second the last guest left, and Sandy's four-inch pumps were discarded in a back corner of the gallery. Both had a trash bag in hand; they made a pass around the gallery, throwing away dirty napkins and cups. Jared did a little run, skidding on the bleached wood floor, before picking Sandy up and twirling her around. She laughed exuberantly.

"Not that I'm complaining," Adrianne said, as she went around with a clipboard, marking off the pieces that had sold, her bare feet quiet on the floor, blond hair out of its severe up-do and wire framed glasses perched on the tip of her nose now that the three of them were alone. "But watch the art, would you?"

Jared laughed loudly and put Sandy down, smacking her ass.

"I take back everything bad I said about you tonight," Sandy chirped, cheeks rounded with laughter. "I can’t believe Moira coughed up eleven thousand for Brad's sculpture, alone. God love single ladies with lots of money," she said, bending down to pick up a napkin.

"God love single ladies who can't get enough of Jared," corrected Adrianne.

Jared grinned. "As long as you two realize how lucky you are to have me."

"Whatever. I still can’t figure out what she finds so charming," Sandy said around a smirk. "You fart all the time."

"That's only for you, sweetheart."

"Lucky me."

Jared beamed.

"Seriously, though, what the hell do you two talk about?"

"There's not a whole lot of talking, actually. Or there is, but it's more along the lines of - " – He affected a falsetto – "Oh, Jared, you're so big and manly. Take me right now."

Scrunching up her nose in disgust, Adrianne grumbled, "Spare us, please."

"Anyway," Jared continued, picking a plastic fork from the floor up with his foot, because he couldn't be bothered to bend down. He grinned to himself when he managed to grasp it between his toes. "We don't have to talk. She's hotter than most girls in their twenties – you two excluded, o' course - "

"We better be – " interrupted Adrianne, as Sandy commented, "You're like a freaking monkey."

Jared grinned. "And she does this thing with her mouth, that, well, if you had dicks, you'd be back there with her too, trust me. She doesn't even mess up her lipstick when she does it, which makes me think it's that kind that's supposed to last up to twelve hours, the kind you said makes your lips really dry, Sandy, but her lips are never dry, so, I dunno…"

Sandy coughed.

"Plus," Jared concluded, seeing Adrianne's eyes start to glaze over – that happened to him a lot – "she knows what she wants, and also what she doesn't want."

"Which is?"


"One day," Sandy commented, "you're going to regret these slutty ways of yours."

"Doubtful," Jared said, while Adrianne just laughed. "I got laid twice tonight, by two seriously hot chicks. How 'bout you?"

Sandy aimed a smile at Adrianne. "None yet," she conceded. "But I'm going home with someone, and she'll be there when I wake up in the morning. You're going home alone."

"That's how I like it."

"I don't believe you," Sandy countered.

Jared wagged a finger at her. "Don't be so close-minded, McCoy. Not everyone is cut out for commitment." He gestured between her and Adrianne. "Not everyone gets this happily ever after thing you've got going on. And anyway, I like my slutty ways."

Sandy gave a huff that sounded a lot like a laugh. "I don't believe you," she said again. "And also, I'm not close-minded." She stamped a tiny foot on the ground. "I'm gay, for fuck's sake. I think being open-minded is implied."

"If you can't accept other people's life style choices, then I'd say you were very close-minded," Jared all but simpered, turning away to plop his trash bag in a garbage can. He looked at Adrianne for support. "Am I right?"

"Don't involve me in this," Adrianne murmured, adjusting her glasses and returning to her clipboard.

"No way," Sandy argued, "are you more open-minded than me. If you were really open-minded you'd…" She looked as if she were casting around for something, dark eyes narrowed in his direction. "You'd date other guys."

Jared snorted. "But I'm not gay."

Sandy smirked at him.

"That one time in college doesn't count."

She raised one perfectly tweezed eyebrow.

"Okay, three times, but still – if I found a guy I was attracted to, sure, I'd date him, but I haven't. I'm just not that attracted to guys. I'm…just not."

From the corner of the room, Jared heard Adrianne murmur, "He doth protest too much."

He frowned. "Fine. I'll go on a date with a guy."

Sandy's eyes went wide, delighted. "Really?"

Jared shrugged. One date. It couldn't be all bad, right? And it'd prove his point – which was – well, okay, so he didn't really remember (he'd had a lot of wine, and a lot of sex – with women – so his mind was perhaps not at its sharpest) but whatever his point had been, Jared figured going on a date with a guy would prove it. "Sure," he said.

Sandy clapped delightedly, and Adrianne was suddenly looking very interested in the conversation again.

"We need to find you just the right guy – " Sandy said.

"Someone who's hot and funny – " agreed Adrianne.

"And smart – " said Sandy.

"And kind – "

"And talented – "

"And kid-friendly –"

Jared's eyes flipped back and forth between the two of them, and maybe this wasn't a good idea - "Hey, Matchmakers dot com. I said a date. You don't need to find me a life partner."

They ignored him, which wasn't at all surprising. "We're going to need to take out an ad," Adrianne said. "We'll need a quote."

"Something fun," Sandy said, punctuating her words with hand gestures. "Gay-friendly without being too flashy, and smart enough to weed out any idiots."

Adrianne snapped her fingers. "I have the perfect quote. Kerouac."

Sandy grinned, a thousand watt grin that lit her face up, and she tipped on her toes to give Adrianne a smacking kiss on the mouth.

Jared watched them warily, almost positive that he was going to regret this in the morning.

"Ten, eleven…twelve," Steve counted out loud, hands at the ready behind Jensen. It was the morning after Jensen's date and the gym was only half-full. His NYU T-shirt clung to his back, the armpits and collar damp with sweat.

"And, c'mon," Steve continued around a grunt, "it couldn't have been that bad." He got one hand underneath the bar bell, guiding it back into place above Jensen's head. It hit with a satisfying metallic clang.

Jensen sat up on the bench, scrubbing one hand down his scruffy, sweat-slicked face. "It could have and it was, dude. She yelled at me for holding the door open for her, and at dinner, she asked me about kids, how many I wanted, and how I felt about adoption. Plus, she insulted my girl."

He and Steve switched places, and he braced himself to spot Steve, who lay down on the bench, eyebrows raised clear to his hairline. "She insulted Bessie?" Steve asked, indignant. "Dude, that's not right. What the fuck's wrong with your truck?"

Jensen lifted the bar bell off the rack with two hands, then let go when Steve brought the weights down to his chest. "Something about how bad it is for the environment, which I can appreciate, but damn, that's third date stuff at least, right?"

"More like fifth date," Steve grunted.

Jensen snorted. "When you get to a fifth date with any girl, you let me know."

Steve gave a shit-eating grin. "No need, man," he said, exhaling loudly as he pushed, his arms shaking just a little. "It never takes me five dates to seal the deal."

"Whatever, man." Jensen paused, counting Steve's reps in his head. "That's twelve."

"Thank God," Steve grunted. Jensen helped him place the bar bell back on its rack. "Seriously, how many bad first dates has this been for you?"

Jensen threw a towel at him, grumbling, "Who the hell knows. Six? Seven?"

"You know, maybe Danneel's right?"

Jensen glared. "I'm not too judgmental."

"Right, right," said Steve. "The girl before this didn't work out because?"

"Her favorite movie was Bridges of Madison County!"

"Mmmhmm, and before her?"

"You mean the girl who got so drunk she threw up all over the inside of my truck?"

"You wanna run a few laps before we hit the shower?"

"Yeah," said Jensen, following Steve over the track suspended above the basketball court. The air smelled like sweat and remnants of perfume and cologne. He stopped to bend over at a drinking fountain, wiping the back of his hand along his mouth.

"I'll give you the girl who threw up," Steve said, "but what about the chick you met at that gig I had at Clines?"

"She was unemployed."

"So what?"

"So, that's a big deal."

"How do you know she was unemployed? Did she tell you?"

"She talked about Days of Our Lives the whole time."

"So she likes soap operas, so what?"

Steve took off at an easy jog, and Jensen fell into step beside him. "I don't watch soap operas, and anyone who is that obsessive about them likely stays home during the day. Ergo, no job."

"That's some faulty logic, dude."

"Plus, she ordered from the home shopping network."

Steve gave a loud sigh. They split up to jog around a pair of girls walking briskly on the center two lanes of the track, and Jensen gave them a nod.

"Maybe you just need to get laid," Steve said.

"Well, when I went to kiss the girl last night, I saw lots 'a mascara gooped in the corner of her eye; it was gross."

"You did at least try to sleep with her, then? Thank God, I thought maybe your balls had decided to crawl back up inside you."

Jensen shrugged, smirked a little. "She was hot, but the mascara – and the kids – kinda killed it for me."

Steve sighed again. "I think you need to go about this differently."

"You got any suggestions, I'm all ears."

"Give me time," Steve said. "Race you for another lap?"

Before Jensen could get the "yeah," out, Steve took off. Jensen gave a determined grin and dug his heels in, following hard.

"You need a really desperate girl," Steve announced loudly, coming up beside Jensen in line at the Starbucks in the gym. The barista behind the counter took Jensen's money and gave him a mistrusting look. He shot a nervous grin her way and glared at Steve, dumping the $2.07 he received in change into the tip jar.

"Grande house," Steve said with a nod to the girl. "Yeah. You just need to get laid," he explained to Jensen, "and then you'd probably be less picky."

Jensen grabbed Steve by the sleeve and hauled him away from the counter. "Could you be more embarrassing about this?"

Steve grinned.

"Forget I asked," Jensen grumbled, taking off the lid to his cup and blowing across the top. He watched warily as Steve dumped a shit load of half-and-half into his coffee. "Dude, you just got done working out."

"Be more of a girl," Steve countered. "Okay, so really desperate girls, they advertise."

"Um, you want me to date a hooker?"

"No, you're not that desperate yet. We'll save that for when this doesn't work."

"What's 'this' exactly?"

Steve had a mad glint in his eye, one that Jensen knew all too well and usually ended with him in a jail cell at four AM sitting next to men with I heart my mom tattoos on large, bulky biceps. "Classified ads."

"Uh, no." Jensen took a long sip from his coffee. It was black and hot, and he burned his tongue. "Fuck."

"Just try it," Steve insisted. He smiled, eyebrows raised a little cockily, and grabbed a free copy of City Beat on their way out the door.

Once beside Jensen's truck, Steve set his coffee on the cab and flipped through the paper. The city was just blossoming to life around them. Cars swished by, sunlight bouncing off gleaming paint, and besuited men and women strode along quickly on their way to work. It was May in Texas, which meant that even at this early hour, the sun baked everything it touched.

"Dude, I gotta get to work," Jensen complained, eyeing his watch.

"This'll take just a second. Oh! Here we go, a quote – "

"I'm really not that desperate," Jensen said into his coffee, debating whether or not he wanted to risk another sip.

" The only people for me are the mad ones," Steve read, ignoring him, "the ones who are mad to live…" Steve snorted. "What is this crap?"

"Kerouac," Jensen said quickly. Steve glanced at him, eyebrows raised. "Or…I don't know. I might be wrong," Jensen backtracked, scratching the back of his neck.

"I forgot you used to have a hard on for that guy." Steve went back to reading the ad. "Nope. This is a dude seeking another guy."

Jensen ran his tongue along his top row of teeth. "I gotta go, man."

Steve nodded. He thrust the paper at Jensen, folded out to the classifieds, and said, "Read this. Find someone. Get laid."

"Aye, aye, Captain," replied Jensen, saluting with the paper.

Steve was already walking away, backwards. He pointed to Jensen. "You're coming to my show tomorrow, yeah?"

"Wouldn't miss it," Jensen answered, already sliding into his truck, the bucket seat cradling him like an old comfortable friend. He threw the paper down on his passenger seat.

"See you then," Steve called out.

Jensen slammed his door shut, started the ignition and listened to the familiar, gentle rumble of the engine. He gave Bessie's dash a loving pat.

From the paper, the Kerouac quote stared up reproachfully at him. Jensen licked his lips, and shifted into reverse.

Of course, he wasn't going to call. He'd read the ad – he'd promised Steve he'd read them all, right? – and it had said for friendship or possibly more, but Jensen wasn't so stupid as to think that friendship was what the guy was actually looking for, or at least not the only thing. The rest of the ads hadn't been as tactful, some flat out stating they were just looking for another person to fuck, a few from various couples looking to add a third into the mix, and one memorable ad asking for someone willing to tie-up and spank the girl in question. (He didn't even pause on that ad. Not for too long anyway.)

But he wasn't going to call. He wasn't even tempted. He didn't even like guys, at least not like that. It was just… it was just that it had been a long time since he'd gone out with someone who he'd gotten along with, someone who laughed at his jokes, and read the same books he did, with someone who knew the difference between Monet and Manet and could also tell the difference between a zone and a spread defense.

Jensen stared at his phone, chewing on his bottom lip. Still, he wasn't going to call.

His phone rang shrilly and he started. He peered around his cubicle, feeling inexplicable guilty.

"Jensen Ackles," he said into the receiver.

"Hey, dork, what're you doin'?"

Jensen grinned. "The Macarena, and you interrupted me right at the hip shake, brat."

Mackenzie's laughter peeled over the line, quick and delighted, and Jensen felt an irrational sense of pride that he could make his baby sister laugh so readily. "Well, sit down for a minute, 'cause I got some news."

"Sitting," Jensen said. "What's up?"

She didn't even pause for dramatic effect when she all but screamed, "I'm getting married!"

Jensen felt his eyes bug out. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came.

"Jen, did you hear me?"

"W – what?" Jensen spluttered stupidly. His shoulders dropped. "I mean, yeah. Yeah, I heard you. Wow –that's – I mean, that's awesome."

"Isn't it?" He could hear her smile across five states, could practically see it.

"Of course," Jensen said. "How – I mean, when did James pop the - it is James, yeah?"

Mac laughed. "Yes, yes, it's Jamie. And four days ago, on a picnic – the big sap – with champagne and strawberries and one knee and everything."

Jensen cleared his throat. "Wow, so, um, it's probably too soon to have a date picked out, huh?"

"No. Actually we're getting married September thirteenth."

"That soon?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know it seems a little sudden, but when you know, you know, right?"

"I guess so." He paused, brow furrowed. "Are you? I mean, you sound real happy, Mac."

"I am."

Jensen took a deep breath. "That's great, Mac. I'm – I'm thrilled for you."

"I'm thrilled for me too," she gushed. "Listen Jen, I gotta go. I just wanted to let you know before Mom and Dad called you. I love you, and I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Absolutely. Hey, congratulations."

"Thanks, love you."

"You too. Bye."

He hung the phone up slowly, feeling a bit like he should be looking around the office for hidden cameras, and certain he should be schooling his face into something resembling a smile, though it didn't seem to be working. He slumped back in his chair.

His baby sister was getting married. Married. Jensen hadn't truly gotten over the fact that she was out of high school, yet – let alone out of college – and now she was getting married. At twenty-three - seven years younger than him – and she had found someone she wanted to spend her life with, while Jensen was still going on bad first dates that always ended with him falling asleep alone, waking up alone, eating meals alone.

He glanced at the City Beat by his keyboard. His chest felt too tight, like it was encased in plastic wrap, and it was difficult to breathe. He picked up the phone, and dialed.

The place was typical; creamy yellow light that melted into corners, a dark wooden bar top, smooth and gleaming. There were a dozen round tables clustered together, all the same smooth wood as the bar, and all high enough to reach Jensen's waist.

Not that he actually planned on walking into the place to take advantage of any of it.

Jensen stood on the sidewalk, the evening sun shining brightly even as it fell into the horizon and cast long shadows from the buildings all around him. He peered inside, eyes squinty as he searched for Jared in the dim light of the bar. They hadn't gone for any of the ridiculous blind date machinations, no I'll be wearing a beret and a dark blue shirt or I'll be the guy with a red rose attached to my lapel, so Jensen didn't have a lot to go by in terms of recognition. Over the phone, Jared'd said he was real tall (just look for a guy who reminds you of a Sasquatch, he'd joked in a low, smooth voice) and had dark brown hair.

There were two guys, both sitting alone, who looked like they could be waiting for business meetings or dates, one who was much shorter than Jensen and sported a crop of messy, blond hair, and one who – judging from the way he perched on the barstool – was likely very tall, wearing a dark blue power suit with hair so shortly cropped he would have fit in with Jensen's older brother's army buddies, and quite frankly, he looked as if he was only two seconds from pulling a gun. Jensen couldn't connect his mean scowl with the warm, friendly voice he'd heard over the phone.

Everyone else in the place was paired off. Two girls in pretty sundresses nursing martinis, another set of guys, eyes on the TV as they watched the Rangers and the Twins. Another dude with floppy hair in a pink shirt leaning over the bar, buying a drink for the girl next to him. So that left the mean guy, the short guy, or no guy at all.

Not that it mattered, because Jensen wasn't going through with this.

He'd thought about it all day. Waking up in the morning, he'd dressed for it, donning his favorite blue shirt – the one Mac'd bought him for his birthday last year – and a bright green tie that his mama said brought out his eyes. When he'd walked into work this morning, Carla the sixty-year-old secretary had whistled at him and said it was a shame she was already married – and yes, she was pushing retirement age and she smelled like his grandmother, but it had still made his self-esteem do a little flamenco dance of joy.

But by the time lunch had rolled around, Jensen had worked himself up into quite a fit, stomach coiling and heart going like he'd mainlined a pot of coffee. He was certain he was too obvious. People smiled at him all day, secret smiles, and it was like they knew. They knew he was planning on meeting up with a guy for a…for a – well, he figured if he couldn't even say it to himself, he was probably in over his head.

He didn't even really like guys, not like that. Okay, there had been that one teacher in high school, Mr. Mernon, who'd taught eleventh grade honors English and had gestured broadly with his hands while he paced the classroom floor, spouting off the merits of Beat poetry. But the guy had been cool, and Jensen had had a dude crush, sure, but it wasn't a big deal. And there had been those few times in college where he'd thought about guys like that, but he'd been in art school for fuck's sake, that was a practically a prerequisite to graduate.

This though, this was more than a crush and more than a few mismanaged but well intentioned jerk off sessions. This was – He swallowed, ran his hand along the back of his neck and pulled away sweat. This was a premeditated date with a dude.

Jensen needlessly straightened the knot of his tie, and then scolded himself for even wearing the damn thing.

He knew he was going to go in. His damn southern-boy hospitality – all yes, ma'ams, thank yous and pleases - had been ingrained into him as surely as his love for his family. He'd buy one beer, chug it, and if no one approached him, he was in the clear. If it was the mean guy, he'd just apologize, say he'd made a mistake, and hightail it out of there. No problem; he'd be back at his place within the hour, and he could watch the rest of the Rangers game in peace.

He squared his shoulders, took a deep breath, pushed open the door and walked into the dimly-lit bar, staggering just a little in the rush of cold air-conditioned air.

The bell above the door had rung five times since Jared had been here, and each time he'd glanced expectantly at the entrance, a curious mixture of excitement and dread colliding in his stomach. Jared looked at his watch for the seventh time. Jensen was over fifteen minutes late, and Jared was mostly convinced he'd been stood up, which had never happened to him before, thank you very much. Of course, there was the guy in the blue suit who might be Jensen, but when Jared had offered him his brightest grin, the guy had scowled deeply, and Jared decided if that was Jensen, he'd rather not know.

Besides, there was always Sandy to talk to, since she hadn't trusted him enough to make and keep the date. She'd promised she'd leave immediately after Jensen showed, but since it looked like that wasn't likely, Jared decided to flag down the bartender to order them both drinks, and settled back on a barstool. If nothing else, he could enjoy the game and get a buzz going. Of course, now he was probably going to have to call another guy to make sure Sandy didn't win their bet, which, thinking about it, they hadn't actually bet anything other than pride, and hey, he was used to living without that, right? And speaking of pride –

"Do you think he came, saw you and left?" Sandy asked, sipping from her Cosmo delicately.

"Not until you said anything, thanks," Jared said around a mock frown, picking at the sticky label of his beer bottle.

Sandy's eyes crinkled. "Just trying to keep you humble, baby."

Jared thought for a minute. "You don't actually think that's what happened, do you?" he asked slowly, bringing his eyes up to Sandy's. "That'd be a blow to the ego."

Sandy's dark, long ponytail swung behind her as she shook her head and promised, "I'm certain that's not what happened. Even straight guys would want to tap that ass, Jared."

Jared grinned, wiggled around a little on his stool. "Couldn't blame 'em."

He glanced behind him in an almost Pavlonian reaction when the jingly bell above the door announced another patron, and very nearly fell off the stool, jaw dropping.

"What are you staring – " Sandy began, head turning to follow the direction of Jared's eyes. "Oh, hello. Damn, if that's him, I hate you, you lucky bastard. God, do you think it is?"

Jared studied the guy: tall (not as tall as Jared, of course, but few outside the NBA were), with short dark hair and broad shoulders, and dressed like a stockbroker or a Catholic schoolboy, tie neatly knotted and pants creased down each leg. His round eyes darted around the room; he reminded Jared of a skittish animal trying to cross a highway. "He looks like he's about to bolt right back through the door, so I'd say yeah."

Sandy made a shooing gesture at Jared. "Maybe you should go check," she said, eyes bright and calculating when she swung around to meet Jared's gaze.

Jensen – if it was Jensen – went right for the opposite end of the bar, away from Jared and Sandy. He gave Jared a friendly – albeit very cautious – smile, but his gaze didn't linger. Jared frowned. "Maybe it's not him," he whispered, crowding in close to Sandy.

"Or maybe," Sandy hissed, "he thinks you're here with me and are therefore not the guy he's supposed to meet." They both watched him throw a long, calculating look at Mean Guy, mouth pulled low into a frown. "Go talk to him."

Jared swallowed. "Fine, I will."

He took a long sip from his beer, swallowing harshly, and ran a hand through his hair. "Do you think I should approach with a beer?"

"Jared," Sandy warned.

"I'm going. I'm going." He swallowed again, watching Jensen straighten his tie absently, eyes trained on the TV behind the bar.

"Now would be good," Sandy insisted.

Jared shot her a look, grabbed his beer, and attempted a cool, casual stride towards the other side of the bar.

"Jensen?" he asked, dipping his head and grinning cautiously, careful to keep his voice low and even.

He took in the startled look, pink mouth that dropped open just slightly and eyes (very bright green eyes with crazy long lashes) that slowly took in his height before snapping up to meet his gaze.

Jared waited.

Jensen visibly shook himself. "Sorry," he said, and his voice was lower in person, deep and soothing. "Yeah. Yeah, that's me."

Jared breathed deeply, pretended it wasn't a sigh of relief, and felt his smile go real and wide. "Jared," he said, wiping his sweaty right hand on his pants before reaching out to shake Jensen's hand.

He got a small, cautious smile and a firm, callused handshake in return.

"It's nice to meet you, man," Jared said, pumping Jensen's hand once before letting go. He resisted the urge to wipe his hand on his pants again, inwardly cursing his sweaty palms that somehow made him feel like a fourteen-year-old on his first date.

Jensen didn’t quite meet his eyes. "Yeah, listen," he said, one hand scratching at the back of his neck. "I actually just came to say that – that I'm sorry, but I can't do this."

Jared frowned. "Can't do what?"

"This," Jensen explained. "This isn't…it's really not me."

"I don't - what's not really you?"

Gesturing helplessly, Jensen said again, "This. Blind dates with – "

"Oh," Jared said, his self-esteem plummeting. "Were you expecting someone else?"

"No, but. Listen, you seem very nice, and you're, you know, obviously attractive and, um, tall, but I'm not – I mean, I date, you know, girls, and I thought I could do this, but I can't. I'm sorry." It came out in a rush, and Jensen looked a little surprised at himself, as if he hadn't been prepared to babble at Jared and was now cursing himself.

Without really thinking about it, Jared reached out and placed a hand on Jensen's shoulder, just to calm the guy, because he looked ready to jump out of his skin. Jensen startled at the touch, throwing Jared an unreadable look, and Jared quickly retracted his hand.

"Sorry," Jared said quickly, hand held up in a placating manner. "I have zero concept of personal space. Listen, dude," he said, glancing at Sandy, who was watching the pair with narrowed eyes. "This doesn't have to be a blind date or whatever. This can just be, you know, friends, hanging out."

"But we're not friends," Jensen pointed out.

Jared resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Not yet," he said, feeling slightly creepy, but what the hell.

Jensen gave him a blank look and blinked slowly. And damnit, this shouldn't be this hard. Jared hadn't even wanted to do this in the first place, had somehow managed to let himself get dared into a blind date with a dude and now that guy – gay or not– was trying to back out. But that only meant that Jared would have go through this all over again, and he -

"Okay," Jared whispered, leaning in so close he could smell Jensen's spicy aftershave. "You see that girl over there – no don't look," he said, when Jensen's eyes flicked behind Jared. "She and I have a bet going that I can't date a dude, so if you just hang out, watch the game with me, and let me buy you a couple beers, I'll win the bet, and you can go on your way without ever having actually done this thing that isn't you. How's that?"

Jensen didn't look convinced. "So you're not… "

"Gay," Jared supplied. He shrugged. "I mean not, well, you know, there were one or two…but that was a long time ago, and, it's not… I like girls," he finished lamely, giving a feeble grin. "Women, whatever."

Jared's eyes flicked to the TV. Bottom of the third and Baker was pitching what looked like was going to be yet another strike. He gave a low wail. "For crying out loud."

"What?" said Jensen, gaze casting around frantically. His eyes landed on the largest TV in the corner. "Are you kidding me?" he said. "If they lose again, I'm gonna have to shell out thirty bucks to my buddy."

"Did you see the fucking game last night?" Jared asked, feeling a sneer twist his face. "Disgusting."

"It was a damn disgrace," agreed Jensen. "I know Blackburn's a good pitcher, but there wasn't any excuse for the way they played, Hamilton especially."

"No kidding," said Jared, eyes flicking between the TV where they were showing a replay and Jensen's face, completely transformed now that he was talking about something other than trying to get away from Jared. He pulled another sip from his beer. "You got money on this game?"

"My buddy Riley," Jensen said with a nod. "From Minnesota, thirty bucks to whoever's team wins two outa three."

"Dude, I know you don't wanna bet against the Rangers and all, but with their track record, that was a stupid move."

Jensen gave him a mock scowl, eyes bright green and happy. "Did you just call me stupid?"

"Of course not," Jared deadpanned, working to keep a grin off his face. "You're a writer, yeah? I would never question your intelligence. That would be… "

"Stupid?" Jensen said.

"Well, I was gonna say imbecilic, or dumb, or, um, dense. You know, mix it up to impress you."

"You got a pocket thesaurus hidden somewhere I can’t see?"

Jared laughed, loud and bright, and was gratified to see the way Jensen's eyes crinkled when he really smiled.

"These are for you two," Matt interrupted from behind the bar. He slid two Coors Lights across the top, winking at Jared in the process.

"We didn't – " Jensen began.

"From the pretty lady who was sittin' over there," said Matt. Jared turned to where Matt inclined his head, but it looked like Sandy had already left.

"Thanks, Matt," he said, feeling a bit foolish, but pleased nonetheless. "One beer won't kill you," Jared cajoled to Jensen, raising his eyebrows.

Jensen nodded his thanks to Matt, wrapping one large hand around the bottle and nearly obscuring the label. "I guess not," he conceded, and it felt like victory to Jared. "You come here often?"

Jared looked at him, charmed despite himself when Jensen went a little red beneath the smattering of freckles across his cheeks and gave an embarrassed shrug.

"I just meant, you know the bartender's name."

"Oh, no," Jared said, sitting himself down on a bar stool. "I always make sure I know the bartender's names, wherever I am."


"I have this theory," he explained, gesturing with his bottle. "Bartenders, waitresses, hostesses, bouncers. If you get to know their names, and make sure to tell them yours, you get better service, lots of free stuff. Plus, I help run a gallery, and it's amazing how many aspiring artists are in the service industry."

Jensen seemed to be considering this. "You run a gallery?"

"Help with one," Jared corrected. "That girl – Sandy, the pretty lady who bought us these, she owns it."

"What gallery?"

"Art House."

"No shit," Jensen said, looking impressed. "I saw a show there last month. The artist's name was…Kim…."

"Mazel, yeah. Kim."

"Yeah, I was really impressed with her stuff. You rarely see encaustic work anymore."

"I know!" Jared said, leaning forward eagerly. "And it's a shame, too, because it's such an impressive medium to work with."

"I actually bought one of her tiles. Just a six-by-six, because, you know, a newspaper columnist is just a step up from a starving artist, but yeah, I was really impressed with what she had."

"Well, I appreciate that, man. She's a local girl, and I hate to pigeon hole artists and say that local artists are the way to go, but it's always nice to see them get their props."

Jensen nodded. "So, the girl who owns the gallery – Sandy? – is she your girlfriend?"

Jared laughed, loud and long. "God no. We dated for about five minutes, when I was eighteen, but she's way too good for me."

Jensen just smiled at him, like he was unsure how to respond to that. His eyelashes were really long. Jared took a sip of drink, distracting himself with the game. "So, you a big Rangers fan?"

Jensen nodded. "Grew up in Richardson. Kinda comes with the package. How 'bout you?"

"San Antonio, but yeah. It was either the Rangers or the Astros, so…"

"San Antonio. Let me guess, you're also a Spurs fan?"

"Fuck yeah."

Jensen tisked, smacking his lips together. He shook his head. "I…think I'm gonna have to leave."

"You’re a Mavericks fan, I can appreciate that." Jared licked his lips. "Tell you what. You stay, I buy you another beer and we can mourn together as the Rangers lose this fucking game."

Jensen hesitated.

"You're gonna lose thirty bucks," Jared reminded him. "At least let me buy you another beer to help ease the pain."

Jensen smiled and Jared tried not to let himself get caught up in the guy's shining eyes. "Okay," he said. "I can hang out for another beer."

Jensen laughed so hard his eyes were streaming. "And he never found out?" he gasped.

Jared grinned around his beer bottle, letting the neck rest between white, straight teeth. Jensen had to force himself to meet Jared's eyes. "I didn't have the heart to tell him, but he found out eventually when he came to the gallery and saw Sandy and Adrianne together."

"He sounds like a real piece of work."

"Nah, Chad's a good guy, just a little rough around the edges. He's a good drinking buddy, though, and always around when I can't get myself motivated to go the gym."

The sun outside the window was just an orange slip sizzle sinking past the horizon between two buildings, and the bar was more crowded now, patrons munching on cheese straws and blue cheese olives, watching the final inning where the Twins were now dominating the Rangers– seven to one.

Jensen was on his fourth beer, kinda mellow and buzzed. "You look like you work out," he told Jared. "Where at?"

Jared crunched loud on a cheese straw. "Balley's," he answered. "But my membership's up in a few weeks and I'm actually looking for somewhere new."

"You should check out Pulse."

"I've heard good things about it, actually. You go there?"

Jensen nodded. "Not as often as I'd like, but yeah."

Jared scoffed. "You look like you get there plenty," he said, though his eyes had already strayed to the television, and he didn't see the flush that crept up Jensen's neck. This wasn't like any date Jensen had ever been on. Between his initial shyness when meeting new people and his insecurities over everything but his looks (which lead to insecurities about his looks), it had been a long time since he had got on with someone so easily, so quickly. Aside from the unbearably awkward introductions, everything about this had been easy, almost exactly like hanging out with one of his buddies. Of course, none of his buddies made him blush with offhand comments about his physique, and none of them had Jared's cheekbones or his long, long fingers -

"This game's a total wash," Jared said, interrupting Jensen's train of thought. He looked at Jensen. "You feeling okay, dude?"

"What? Oh, yeah, yeah. Just – a little warm."

"You wanna get outa here?" Jared asked, already putting up a hand to call Matt over. "You hungry?"

"Oh, I don't – " Jensen's stomach chose that moment to growl, so loud they could hear it over the bar crowd. "Yeah. I guess I am. Though not for bar food."

Jared smiled. "I know a great steak house down the street."


"That's the one. You been?"

"Yeah. Yeah, actually it's a favorite of mine."

Matt put one bill down on the bar top. Jared and Jensen both reached for it at the same time, but Jensen got there first.

"I got this," Jared said, and his hand closed over Jensen's, warm and callused.

"No, man, that's not necc – "

"I did lure you to stay with the promise of buying you a beer, man."

"One beer, not four."

Jared looked him in the eye. His hand was still warm over Jensen's. "I'm not gonna budge on this."

Jensen swallowed, nodded. "Okay," he relented, somewhat reluctant to move his hand away. "But dinner's on me."

"I don't know, man," Jared said, grinning and standing to fish his wallet out of his back pocket. His cheeks were flushed, eyes bright. "I eat a lot."

"Gee," Jensen said, eyes taking in Jared's broad shoulders and his long legs. "I would never have guessed."

They ordered a bottle of wine with dinner, because Jensen insisted that was the only way to go. The color was rich in Jared's glass, gleaming like a jewel in the low light.

"She threw up in your truck?" he said.

"All over the dashboard and the door." Jensen grimaced. "It was disgusting."

"That's why I don't date," Jared said.

"At all?" Jensen looked a little incredulous.

Jared shrugged. "Not really."

"How unfortunate," Jensen said.

Jared looked at him. "I'm okay with it."

"I mean for me," Jensen continued, a gleam in his eye. He looked like he was fighting back a smile.

Jared laughed. "I kinda suck at it, yeah?"

Jensen looked to be considering it. "I give you at least three and a half stars," he said.

"How generous of you."

"I'm a generous guy."

"No, but seriously," Jared said, leaning across the booth. "What does dating really get you?"

"I hear it gets you laid," Jensen said, "But I haven't experienced that in a while, so I think it might be a myth."

"I get laid plenty."

"Sure you do," Jensen said. He ticked off the names Jared had told him earlier. "Melissa and Sally and Moira, but you're not really emotionally invested in any of them."

"That's the way I like it," Jared insisted, gesturing with his wine glass. "I have friends for all that emotional crap, or my family. Sex is just…sex."

Jensen blinked at him and took a sip from his wine glass with his eyebrows knitted together. The wine left his lips stained a berry red. "But what about…I dunno, companionship, intimacy that comes from a sexual relationship with a special girl."

"You sound like a Lifetime movie."

Jensen grinned and threw him a rude gesture. Jared pretended to look offended. "I thought you were a gentlemen," he mock-grumbled. "Listen, you're going out on dates all the time - bad dates I might add, where people insult you and throw up all over your truck. And you're still not getting any tail. How's that better?"

He watched Jensen shrug. "I know it's kind of a crap shoot, but I guess I still believe I can find someone special, so I keep looking."

Jared took a sip of his wine; it left a hot, little ache in his belly, as he watched Jensen's eyes go earnest, watched his cheeks go a little pink. "So basically, you're just a sappy romantic at heart," he concluded.

Jensen's cheeks went even pinker beneath his freckles. Jared didn't even hide his grin.

"Basically," Jensen agreed.

"If you don't try it, how are you gonna know?"

"Um, because I know myself pretty well," Jensen answered. It was past ten now, and the club crowd milled around the street: boys with too many tattoos and girls in mini-skirts showing ample amounts of thigh, all heavily made-up eyes and perfectly coifed hair. Jared and Jensen stood outside Nightingale, the kind of place twenty-somethings frequented, with lots of throbbing music and deep leather couches shoved into corners, and Jensen was very, very certain he didn't belong here.

"C'mon," Jared pleaded. "It'll be fun."

Jensen was finding it hard to resist him, but he stood firm. Kriegers was just a few streets over, and it was certainly more his speed. He knew the bartenders from years of evenings spent at the bar, and the music and conversation were always familiar, something he could count on to be low and mellow. "I promise I won't have fun."

"You have no way of knowing that if you've never been in."

Jensen could practically feel the ground vibrate, the base inside the club was so loud. "Yes I do."

"So you know how you're going to feel about situations before you experience them?"

"Most situations, yes."

"How is that even possible?"

"It's possible because I'm thirty years old and know myself well enough to, you know, know myself.

In the neon light of the club's sign, Jared's eyes gleamed darkly, almost cat-like. He licked his lips, looking thoughtfully at Jensen as he titled his head to the side. "Okay," he said, "if you know yourself so well, explain to me how you're going to react to this."

Before Jensen had a chance to protest, Jared loomed into his space, crowding over him, and Jared's spit-slicked lips pressed open against Jensen's. One large hand clasped the back of Jensen's neck, keeping him in place, and he nearly swallowed his tongue, mouth falling open in surprise. It was nothing more than a brief meeting of mouths, a quick graze of teeth along his bottom lip, followed by a swipe of Jared's tongue. Jensen tasted merlot and he smelled Jared's citrus aftershave. He gave a surprised murmur and shut his eyes to lean into the kiss, just as Jared pulled away. Jensen blinked his eyes back open to see Jared's smug expression.

"If you don't like the club, we'll leave," Jared said, "but give it a try before you write it off completely."

He turned to slip into the place, and Jensen, still a little dazed and more than a little turned on, ducked his head and followed him inside.

| part 2 | part 3