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Reddish Gold and Caramel | Fic (Part 3)

Fic title: Reddish Gold & Caramel
Author name: belledewinter
Artist name: morgentau
Genre: AU RPS Slash
Pairing: Jared/Jensen
Rating: R
Word count: 36.700
Fic Warnings: AU. Unabashed schmoop. Lots of coffee.
Art Warnings: No warnings necessary. Everything's perfectly safe for work. However, the art you'll see under the cut is very spoilery.
Original Summary: Jared makes a bet against Misha that a single act of kindness can turn someone’s day around. To prove his point, he buys an extra cup of the sweetest, richest coffee he can find and tells Misha to hand it over to the person who seems to need it the most with a little note that Jared scribbles on a napkin.

Enter Jensen Ackles, workaholic and caffeine-addict, mostly focused on his own misery… until he decides to return the favor by paying back his benefactor through Misha again, while at the same time meeting a a regular from the coffee shop with a dimpled, endless smile that might just keep him sane.

Jared could be drawn to Jensen, in the sharp suit and the perfect smile ... if it weren't because he may already be falling for someone he has never met.

Link to fic: Here.
Link to art: Here.

Do you have a favorite Beatles song?

When Jensen steps into the coffee shop that afternoon he knows the music is familiar, but in that distant way that he can’t quite point out from where or when. It doesn’t take him long to catch on, though, but when the man behind the counter serves him some vanilla layer cake, he freezes at the sight of the note.

“I’m being held hostage by a fanboy. All day,” the man says conspiratorially, and when Yellow Submarine ends, Hey Jude comes up.

In all honesty, he never really gave music that much thought, or at least not for the last ten years, and he knows it should make him ashamed that he can’t even name ten of the songs by this outrageously popular band, let alone any other. The barista hands him a pen and a clean napkin and gets on with making some Indian tea with milk for a lady sitting prettily on the table closest to Jensen. The pen stays still in his hand, and after a few minutes, Jensen decides that he should sit down in a discreet place and just pretend to be doing something productive.

The barista makes him bring a tall chair to the counter while he thinks, makes him some plain coffee which Jensen really seems to need. “Cupcakes today are key lime,” he points out, and Jensen snaps out of his trance and tells him to please set two apart in return for the cake.

“Do you have any favorites?” Jensen asks him, desperate for help.

“I do, but you’d probably have never heard of those bands.”

“Why, where are they from?”


Jensen feels his lips twitch with the need to reply, either with that’s nice or you’re joking, but the man goes back to his tables and he’s left alone with the notes, the cake and the music, and all of a sudden he feels completely lost.

“Think of something fast, man, I have coffee to serve and someone who won’t take a blank note for a reply.”

Doesn't have a point of view/ Knows not where he's going to /Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Jensen seems to freeze in the middle of the store, and looks at the barista in a way that makes the poor man back off slightly before he asks, “What’s the name of this song?”

Jensen calls his sister as soon as he heads out of the office. It seems strange to be dialing her number after so many days without much contact. He misses her, for sure, but he knows even before he hears her voice, that nothing he can say will probably make her feel better, just as much as he knows that she will not make him feel more at ease. It’s soothing, though, to hear her voice and know that, other than the memory of their father lingering between them, she is doing well.

“Do you miss him?” He asks, and for a few seconds he gets only silence.

“Of course I do, Jensen.” She sounds just as defeated as Jensen feels. The conversation seems to end at that, and neither of them seems to really know what to say right after. The last time they met face to face it was over a coffin, and it seems bringing it up just leaves the two of them destroyed. “How are you?”

Jensen doesn’t know how to respond. “It depends on the day.”

When Jared steps back into the shop that afternoon, an obscure cover of Metallica is playing in the half-empty store. Misha smiles when he sees him, holds up a tray of cupcakes and goes back to the dishes at hand. “How did today go?” Jared asks.

Misha grins. “This music is your man’s suggestion, I’m afraid.”

“What, the bongos too?”

“… I’m not sure he specified those. I’m just giving his request some originality.”

There are days when I really can’t wait to get to bed.

It’s Enter Sandman, and Jared would have never really picked that music for himself. But he listens to the music anyway and revels in the lyrics, even if the cover sounds strange to everyone but Misha. He wonders when this person must have heard this music for the first time, if it meant something.

“It’s sad, isn’t it?” Jared looks up, but Misha barely makes a sound of inquiry as he works. “The song, I mean. If it had to define you, what would you feel?”

Tired,” Misha says, and even if Jared already knew that, it leaves him wondering. “Maybe he’s just tired.”

Jared listens to the song intently, tries to understand.

Misha snaps his fingers in front of Jared’s face a few seconds later when his hands are clean and dry, but he isn’t looking at his friend when Jared turns to face him. “What do you want me to do tomorrow?”

“Can you make some super-coffee again?”

Misha is outraged. “That’s all?”

Jared thinks hard for about two seconds. “How about triple chocolate cake?”

Jensen walks back to his flat and doesn’t do anything but fall asleep.

It’s still early, he has to admit, when Jared’s text message wakes him.

I think I know what we can do! :)

“The movies, Jared? That’s where you’re taking me?”

Jared’s smile is bright and hopeful. “You don’t like it?”

Jensen smiles. This time they drink their coffee out of Misha’s perfect paper cups, savoring the taste, the two of them sitting close at the bench under the morning sun, and it all feels strangely warm despite the first traces of winter in the air. “I don’t even know what I would want to see. Do you have any preferences?” Jared beams up at the response, and seems genuinely surprised that Jensen didn’t tell him no.

“Many!” He responds. “Do you like classical cinema?”

The slice of cake in front of him is carefully constructed layer after layer, white chocolate on brown milk one on dark that’s almost black, then on what seems to be a golden base of crushed cookie. Jensen looks at it strangely for a moment, like he’d never seen one of these before, but Misha seems pleased to see him be genuinely fascinated by the slightly gelatinous, sticky texture of the mix and the way Jensen’s face looks when he notices that the cake came out so well that it actually melts in your mouth, leaving you to chew on the tasty, buttery cookie base that sticks to Jensen’s teeth and palate for just a second before it comes apart as well.

“Good?” Misha asks, but he doesn’t wait for the answer and walks past Jensen to serve tea and biscuits to another table, and pretty much ignores Jensen for all the time it takes him to consume his slice of triple chocolate cake, taking in the contents of the note.

When I was little, this was the one thing my mother would almost never let me have. Too much sugar, you know.

It’s almost adorable, Jensen thinks, how this man wrote this and still remembers something like that. What he can remember of his own parents doesn’t seem half as endearing, but then again, it’s maybe because they never really gave any importance to a cake that had all kinds of chocolate wrapped in one. Jensen never knew what he was missing out on until now.

He notices that the note is written in one of Misha’s bright-colored pens, the kind that lets out too much ink and soaks the paper, makes the writing less defined and, considering the bright green shade of this particular one, makes it seem extra cheery and extra childish. Jensen loves it, presses his fingers to the ink almost expecting them to get them stained, but the note has already dried. It’s slightly disappointing.

When Misha finally pays him some attention, he orders some tea with orange and ginseng, and then asks Misha to compose a waffle that has everything in extreme quantities, mostly fresh strawberries and syrupy white chocolate, and Misha just nods like he knows exactly what Jensen means – he doesn’t, he never could, but Jensen’s sure that even if he can’t convey enough in a waffle, Misha will still make it glorious – and scribbles down what he thinks should be in the batter in a bright yellow. Jensen’s own pretty, sleek pen seems to fall short with his sharp black ink.

The one thing I never had was the Joe Shlabotnik collectible card.

He gives the note back to Misha along with his payment, and takes the tea, still hot and untouched with every intention of giving it to his assistant. Before he leaves, Misha hands Jensen another paper cup.

“Sorry, I almost forgot.”

It’s coffee with ginseng again, hot and strong and absolutely perfect. There’s a young man right behind him who seems to crave it beyond anything, and begs Misha with his dark-rimmed eyes for an extra cup. His fingers are stained with pen and sport quite a few paper cuts. Jensen doesn’t miss the student life.

“Can I have one just like that? I’ve smelled the spices from the other side of the room.”

Misha doesn’t seem moved in the slightest by the young man’s plea. “Maybe when you’re old enough to be married, Paul.”

Jensen steals the cheap green pen.

Jared manages to ambush Jensen on his way out of work the following Friday, and Jensen does think briefly about saying that he should head home and that there is so, so much that he has to do for the following day. But Jared seems so excited with the prospect of popcorn and Jensen’s company, that he can’t honestly say no. He has to admit that Jared makes much better puppy eyes than the two of his dogs combined, and that was probably what really won him over.

It’s sweet, he thinks, that Jared takes the two of them to this secluded, small dollar cinema hidden in a street that Jensen is sure he would never know how to get back to and buys the two of them caramel popcorn. Their fingers are sticky before the movie even starts, caramel clinging to their fingertips and lips. Jensen watches Jared attempt to lick it off his fingers with the most discreet, dignified moves that he can.

“Not all of us have your natural grace,” Jared tells Jensen when he laughs.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jared. I’m just stunned at how much caramel you managed to not get in your mouth. ” Jared rolls his eyes at this and turns his face to the screen, the first images of the film starting to appear in shades of silver and black. He licks his lips by reflex, catches a trace of caramel with his tongue and chews his lip lightly, an unconscious gesture. Jensen’s mind remains fixed on the stray drop of caramel that Jared hasn’t quite managed to catch and wonders what would happen if he did it for him, instead.

The thought is fleeting. He never could.

But just as he’s caught up in that thought, Jared turns to him and catches him with his eyes away from the screen, “This is one of my favorites,” he whispers, leaning into Jensen so that only the two of them can hear.

“Anyway, David, when they find out who we are, they’ll let us out.”
“When they find out who you are, they’ll pad the cell!”

The movie, Jensen thinks as he steals glances at Jared whenever he thinks there’s a calm moment in the screen, reminds him a lot of the two of them, in a way, Jared with all his exuberant friendship and Jensen so reserved. Minus the tiger, probably.

The movie goes by all too fast, and when it’s over and Jared offers to walk him home so he doesn’t get lost, all that Jensen can think of is sticky, drying caramel.

Jared feels that with every written word he learns a little bit more or someone. You can tell so much, can’t you, by the way someone writes things out, the words they use, the slide of their letters (maybe perfect and even) and if they are lopsided or not (not lopsided, Jared has always envied people who could write straight).

He smiles at someone else’s childhood memory, and in all honesty, he doesn’t remember that many famous names from baseball, but this one he will, but instead of attaching a face and moment, there will only be a clear, neat note.

Misha doesn’t talk to him while he eats his waffle, but Jared forgives him, because he looks entirely too pleased with himself and Misha seems to be having the longest day of his life. Jared shares it, though, and Misha accepts.

Jensen liking Indian food is not something Jared expects.

They eat it at the back room of Jared’s clinic while he’s still working, in theory, but the day is being so slow that he’s left with not much to do unusually early. “Is it always like this?” Jensen asks. “The peace and quiet.”

“Oh, I wish,” Jared responds. “I’m guessing it’s just a bad hour. Show up early, you’d see a few interesting scenes. If an animal is really not feeling well, we deal with them as fast as we can, but people taking their pets for a shot or grooming right before work? Those can be a circus alright.”


Jared laughs. “Of course. What, you think I meant the animals?”

“I think I always imagined that working with animals would be hard.”

“Not at all,” Jared says, his smile clear and honest. “Well, I guess it is, sometimes. But I’m lucky enough to love my job, what can I say? It doesn’t matter if I get to see them at their worst along with their best, knowing I can help the little guys have a better life and getting to see their families embrace them with so much love when they can finally take home… I don’t think I’d trade it for the world.”

Jensen likes animals, he always has, and he knows that he can get along with pets most of the time. But it’s the look on Jared’s face, that serene happiness when he talks about what he can do for them and all they do every day for their masters, that voice when he talks about his true passion that makes him really wish he could be here and listen to Jared all day if he could, and not get tired at all.

Early morning always seems more lively when you’re sharing it with friends, Jared thinks, and if he’s later than usual to his breakfasts with Misha these days, he tries to make up for it by being extra cheery to him every waking moment and giving him all of these ideas. The man takes it all in stride, of course, but for the most part, he seems very tired. He looks at the tables as they fill up with the slightest sense of dread, and even if he always has time for people he likes, he still seems to spend too much time running on a tight schedule.

This time Jared picks some kind of coffee/vanilla milkshake, creamy and intense and blissfully filled with caffeine. He orders it with a perfect description of how Misha should serve it and pays for it leaving a gigantic tip and an even bigger smile. Misha looks at him funny and hands him a brand new napkin and a felt-tip pen.

“And what do you actually want?”

“Latte, please,” Jared says. He takes the pen and the napkin and scribbles something that nobody would have been fast enough to read over his shoulder, and it doesn’t really matter if Misha knows what it is and Jared gets teased for the rest of his life. Misha snatches it as soon as his pen leaves the paper and hides it somewhere out of reach.

Miss Genevieve, pretty in pastel pink and standing at Jared’s side, doesn’t even seem thrown off by the exchange by now.

“So, how is it going?” she asks sweetly, all fluttery eyelashes and smashing charm.

Jared pretends not to understand. “How is what going?”

“Oh, you know. The act of goodwill that was meant as a social experiment against Misha and has turned into a Meg Ryan movie?” Misha shoots her a dirty look over the counter, but she is unfazed and smiles directly at the coffee cups he’s holding. She looks back at Jared and quips, “This thing you’re going to tell me more about if I treat you?”

“Not worth it.” Jared laughs and lets it slide. “I don’t really think you’re going to find it all that interesting.”

“You keep looking for ways to make my life harder, Jared,” Misha mutters, handing him small packets of brown sugar and a few chocolates that Jared plans on tossing into his hot coffee as soon as one of his hands are free.

Miss Genevieve is unmoved, too. “I don’t know, darling. The thrill could be rounding every corner not knowing if you just walked past him. How big is Angel Town, anyway?”

Jared does his best not to look too hard at every man who passes him down the street, curious and slightly disappointed that those who notice just seem confused. When the time to see Jensen comes, anyway, he isn’t really sure anyone could compare.

Jensen’s particularly stressed the next time Jared brings him his coffee. He thinks of work and home and of his father, all of those things tangling into one big ball of tension that he thinks will make his head explode. There are days when Jensen’s too tired of living inside his own head.

They talk about food, which seems to be one of Jared’s favorite subjects ever, and Jensen notices that there are many, many things that he has never tried in his life and that now seem vital for his education as a human being, like these pizza bread balls the Italian at the corner makes that are filled with melted cheese and served with garlic butter, or the grilled fish they serve at this little dirty place at the docks that Jared knows the owner of and the meatloaf Jared’s mother made.

He talks about a really fantastic vegetarian restaurant that makes crêpes with eggplant and zucchini and an insane amount of cheese, and it’s almost reflex to ask him where it is. It’s only once Jared has started explaining and giving him all of these street names that Jensen knows that he will never be able to not just find the time, but remember where the hell he’s supposed to go. Jared seems to notice Jensen’s distress then, quickly shifts from cheerful to worried, leaning in closer like Jensen could just tell him just with the look on his face.

“Hey, are you alright?”

“Just tired, I think. I just don’t really think I’ll be able to remember everything you just said. What was the name of the street, again?”

“Hold on, I’ll write it,” Jared pipes up, but he fishes for pen and paper in his pockets without any apparent results. “Shit. Harley ate my pen a couple of days ago.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

Jared smiles. “No need to, it was a crappy ballpoint, but I’m really missing it right now.” Jared finds something to write on, and it looks like a supermarket receipt. Jared tries to make the paper look less rumpled and smudged, and Jensen can read things like a brand of kibble and bacon and a strange mix of food you can make right on the spot and assortment of fruit that Jared must place there just to compensate.

Jensen’s hand goes to the inside pocket of his jacket. “Here, you can have mine.”

His hand comes out with two. And by his classy, usual one there is a plastic green felt-tip. Jared is about to take it when Jensen offers just his own. Jared seems pleased with both options and writes quickly on the paper, messily, his hand at a weird angle. He’s looking at the pen’s details, handing it back with reverence and if he’s scared he’ll break it. Jensen takes the note with the address, but their coffee break is almost up, and the hour signals a return to so much work and way too many things in his head. He barely gives it a look, even if he’s careful when he puts it in his pocket.

“Do you want to go for a walk tomorrow?” Jared asks, right before Jensen can leave.

“Why, have you got anything planned?”

“Maybe,” he smiles, and the look he gives Jensen tempting enough.

“I may give you the chance to show me, then.” When Jared’s about to return the pen, Jensen smiles. “Keep it.”

Jared still thinks about what he will write, what he will send to this man he’s never met and wonders what he’d be like from the small, careful little letters he gets in return. He practices his writing once in a while, looks carefully at the trace of ink the pen creates, observes the details in the black, shiny object before he puts it away without really having written anything at all. Jared doesn’t need a pen like this, he figures, while Jensen probably does. The fact that he gave it away with such ease must mean something, and Jared’s chest seems to swell for just a second with warmth, a fleeting feeling of butterflies in his stomach.

He likes thinking of where that pen must have gone, always close to Jensen’s heart, warm against his skin, held firmly in his hand as he took care of his precious work.

Jared likes that Jensen isn’t as loud and messy as he is. The man manages to have not just the beauty, but the charm. It doesn’t matter if it takes him a bit longer to start talking, because when he finally starts, he is absolutely captivating.

Jared thinks of Jensen way more often than he should. On his way to work with Harley and Sadie close to his heels, when he walks past an interesting movie that he thinks Jensen could like, when he buys a new kind of cookie that they can share. It has become usual for them to see each other often, but with every day that passes Jared wonders when he will run out of innocent excuses to see him and Jared will have to admit the truth – he does enjoy helping out someone who is new in town. But it’s also true that, were it anybody else, he isn’t sure he would feel that stunning, blinding wish to show every inch of Angel Town.

It comes as something new when Jared realizes that the next time he’s about to write a note in thanks for a bowl of coffee-chocolate mousse in Misha’s shop, his mind is blank. His eyes remain fixed on the pen for a few seconds, then on the napkin, perfectly clean and with the logo clear and unmarred.

It feels strange to write this note to someone else when Jared’s thinking of Jensen, wondering if this very dessert is something he should offer him. He remembers more out of habit than anything else that he has to send something back, something that’s perfect, but when Misha asks, Jared doesn’t know what to reply.

“Jared,” his friend inquires, “Are you alright?”

Jared watches Jensen walk past the clinic the next morning, elegant and gorgeous in the first hour of the morning. He stops for a second on his way to work to wave a quick hello, and Jared has a second to imagine what it would be like if he could just go outside and take him in his arms with no excuse at all, press his lips softly against Jensen’s for a sweet, hot second, taste the hint of coffee that surely lingers on his lips.

Jared does his best to push the thought down as soon as Jensen’s gone, but it stays with him for the rest of the day.

It never ceases to surprise Jensen just how many places Jared knows. Walking with him is a constant source of places to visit and things to do, he’s read all about the monuments in town (even those that he has never had the pleasure of visiting just yet because they’re far from the center and he has not found the time), has been to every restaurant in sight more than once, and has found every possible excuse to poke his head in bookstores, flea markets and one of the biggest record stores that Jensen has seen in his life. Angel Town is by no means a big place, Jensen thinks, just somewhere quiet to live.

“It doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do!” Jared says. “You just have to pay attention, and alright, possibly spend a lot of time walking for no good reason. But hey, it’s healthy!”

Harley and Sadie walk just a step in front of Jared and constantly turn to watch him, like their master is the only important thing in the world. Not that Jensen doesn’t understand, if only in the slightest – Jared shines when he talks, and seems to have an innate talent for making the most boring town seem like a place you’d never want to leave.

“Look,” he pipes up, taking Jensen by the hand and leading him towards a small, colorful place trapped between grim stores. Jensen has a second to think of how warm Jared seems to be, how secure that warmth makes him feel. “Italian ice-cream! What’s your favorite?”

It’s only when they are in front of the display that Jensen really gets to reply. “I don’t really know. Do you have to like one best of all?”

“Well,” Jared ponders. “You can like many of them, I guess, but isn’t there one that will always be your first choice? I’d say anyone does.”

Jensen contemplates the flavors, watermelon and stracciatella, hazelnut and chocolate, vanilla and something that’s called “smurf” and that judging by the color, Jensen would be repulsed to try. There is even one made with beer, it seems, which Jensen thought impossible until just now. “There are so many of them I have never even tried.”

Jared grins, “Well, at least there’s an easy solution to that.”

If you can’t choose, Jared must think, try them all. Jensen is convinced that in his mind it works. They buy as many flavors as they can carry among the two of them, every possible flavor in the shop stuck inside them haphazardly, creating a strange kind of palette that they share between the two of them, sitting comfortably on a bench with Jared’s dogs sitting patiently at their feet, just in case they find a flavor that doesn’t please them enough.

By the point Jensen gets home, he decides his favorites are chocolate and pistachio.

That night, Jared finds himself unable to fall asleep. He could blame the sugar rush and the way his stomach seems to be stretching too far, how he feels vaguely sick because of all the ice-cream he consumed. It’s the recent memory of the afternoon that makes him smile despite the heavy feeling in his stomach, makes him feel light-headed and hopeful when he thinks again of how easy it was to hold on to Jensen’s hand as they stood together in the ice-cream parlor, how natural it felt. Jensen did not just let him hold onto his hand like one would indulge a child – he responded, of that Jared’s sure. He can clearly remember Jensen’s fingers entwined with his. His own hands still seem to tingle at the memory of it.

Jared wonders what Jensen would say tomorrow if, instead of biscuits or a sandwich they could split among the two of them, Jared brought him ice-cream again, just to see the smile on his face or if he’d go rather green at the mere prospect of more and try to throw them in Jared’s face.

Jared treasures the rare moments when Jensen seems to lose his composure, either because Jared offered him something that he accepts with almost childish enthusiasm, even if he tries to keep his gestures as adult and collected as possible (the shine in his eyes though, that’s unmistakable) , or because he’s unable to hold back when Jared makes him laugh. It’s a perfect smile, Jared thinks, the kind that that comes along with a laugh that’s like a bell and small wrinkles in his eyes. It makes Jensen look younger, just for a second.

It does not escape Jared either that there are times when Jensen seems to be lost in his own thoughts, that he only listens to what Jared says through the haze of his own mind. Jared has learnt to catch that look in his eyes just for the briefest moment, right before Jensen keeps himself under control. For just a second, his eyes will make him look lost, almost like he was the only person left in the world. It makes Jared’s heart break, only for a second, makes him try harder to cheer Jensen up and show him something, anything that he has not yet seen and that he’ll love. It tempts him to close the space between them and just kiss that pout away, soothingly, more out of the need to take that look from Jensen’s eyes than anything else, but knowing that if he ever got the chance, he wouldn’t know how to stop.

Jared knows the way Jensen’s lips curl upwards when he smiles, the slight flush of his cheeks when he makes a mistake, the way his eyelashes look when he sighs, eyes closed, because the day is being way too long. He wonders, because he can’t help it, what it would be like to kiss the freckles on his cheeks, if his skin really is that warm under his suit, what he would look like if he were pressed close against Jared’s skin, electric heat between them, and if he’d let Jared hold him close, flushed and out of breath, lips demanding and hot against Jared’s. Jared can’t help but imagine, and Jensen’s usually so proper and serious, the sharp classy suits and pose even though they have grown to become friends, the hint of his old, démodé watch poking underneath his sleeve.

It hits Jared like a bucket of cold water that Jensen’s watch isn’t his.

Jensen never really acknowledged that he had neighbors in his building until very recently, and in all honesty, even if they’d been the kind of family with six kids that you can’t avoid hearing, he doubts he would have looked at them twice. There is a nice elderly woman living in the flat right above his, a family with two sweet, polite kids underneath, and right in the flat opposite his, a very handsome, tall man who introduces himself as Tom.

“Pleased to meet you,” Jensen says that night when he walks past his neighbor and introduces himself as well, mind still reeling with the feeling of that very afternoon.

Tom seems unimpressed. “Actually, Mr. Ackles, this is the third time we have met.”

Jensen gapes. “Oh. I’m sorry,” Jensen responds with the best smile he can come up with. “I don’t know where my head is, sometimes.”

He still doesn’t learn much about Tom other than that he’s a doctor and that he thinks Jensen’s sedentary office life is nothing short of a death sentence, but this time Jensen manages to remember his name, if only because he’s tall and handsome and his hair is slightly long, and greets him properly every time after that.

The days are getting colder, and at the first hint of snow Jared does decide on a very early morning, and visits Misha with the dogs and the glee only someone under twelve could have. “Snow, Jared? Really?” Misha talks about it like it’s the most horrid thing in the world – it’s cold and wet and it makes you slip when you walk. It doesn’t dampen Jared’s enthusiasm.

“You only understand if you have a proper snowball fight, you know?”

“Is that a challenge?”

Jared smiles and orders spiced tea, this time a cup for his friend in the notes, but also one for himself, and then throws in another one for Misha. The man seems to be permanently cold and annoyed because of it. They drink in silence, because the room is so empty that in comparison the last few days, they almost can’t believe it. The shop is getting busier as people hear of upcoming Christmas party that Misha intends on throwing, written on the blackboard at the front door and a poster inside the shop, promising all kinds of celebratory treats a lot prettier than usual and tasty as ever.

“I think I have to hire someone.”

“You won’t get along with anyone.” Jared retorts, grinning bright.

“You’re right,” Misha says, after a second. “I’ll get a cat.”

Jared whips out his pen and scribbles something on today’s napkin, and Misha watches the slide of the pen on paper the whole time. “It was a gift.”

Isn’t it the perfect day to roll around in the snow? My dogs love it,, his note reads.

“Oh.” Misha says, simply, which stuns Jared. “I wasn’t thinking of the pen.”

Jared finishes writing his note with a proud smile, and hands it back to Misha with that smile still plastered on his face, twice as bright if possible. “What troubles you, then?”

“You seem very happy. I was just wondering if this is still about the notes.”

Jared freezes at his friend’s words. It’s like all of a sudden there’s a heavy weight at the bottom of his stomach, and he can barely talk. Is it still about the notes? The answer should be easy enough when he thinks back of Jensen’s smile. But he still loves these little conversations he can have through paper, and imagining the smile he brings to someone else as well, wonders how it looks on their face and if they love it as much as Jared does. “It makes me very happy to send them,” Jared responds, because it’s true.

Misha doesn’t answer to that, not really, but the way he looks at Jared makes him feel guilty for reasons only he knows. Jared loves those notes, and the feeling they bring of creating a friendship out of the blue, of talking to someone just because. When he thinks of Jensen at the same time, it seems like his heart will burst.

Misha lets the moment pass and leaves Jared to think with his eyes fixed on the tea. They can’t have a proper snowball fight because Misha has to work and he’s got snowflake-shaped cookies to bake, and white, silvery, shiny frosting to make for his cupcakes, but when he walks Jared to the door he gets snow in the inside of his pants and Jared gets a snowball to the face.

They’ve both had worse ways to start the day.

It’s usual for Jared to be late sometimes for their coffee, so when the morning rolls by and Jared has not given any signs of life, Jensen thinks he has every right to worry. Then again, work lately is hectic for the two of them, and with the cold he guesses all of the little bunnies and puppies and kittens that Jared is constantly talking about get sick just as often as people do. It makes him smile to think of it that way, almost like Jared’s job came straight from a fairytale and all he did was take care of pretty animals who are the most adorable things in the world, but he wonders if there’s another way to treat a vet who remembers every name and knows just how precious all of these pets are to their families. It makes Jensen snort and smile at that, endearing as it seems.

Jensen tries to tell himself that he will do just fine if Jared isn’t there for just one day, reasons that maybe Jared can’t come to see him all the time because they both have work to do, and that his patients need him even more than Jensen does. But his office seems to get colder when he thinks that he may not see Jared today, and he can’t avoid a sneeze.

Jared can’t avoid a sneeze either. And then another. And a third.

Jensen takes the tea with the utmost reverence, looks at it and the swirl of cream and cinnamon that appears on top, smells the hint of ginger and peppermint for way too long. “It isn’t actually any good until it falls into your mouth,” Misha bitches at him, probably because he is annoyed by the snow and the cold and every customer who walks in and carries both of those inside along with their presence.

Jensen loves the tea, the snow and how the paper cups have turned a dark, rich shade of red. He ponders for a second the careful choice, how it seems to fit all too well with what he needs, and wonders once again who this person may be. It strikes him that his secret friend, so careful and kind, could be a lot like Jared. It’s a thought that Jensen can’t let go of as he writes his note, making an effort to make it the clearest of them all.

This really seems like it could bring life back to the frozen. Do you think we could have some of this tea together sometime? Drinking alone feels slightly cold, anyway.

It feels wrong after he’s written it, because he knows that Jensen doesn’t always drink his tea alone. It makes him feel an odd sense of guilt that it could look like he’d trade Jared’s presence for that of someone he has never met, but it’s only after Misha’s taken it that it’s not that at all – Jensen’s thankful, and cherishes those moments when he gets the notes.

But it doesn’t amount to Jared’s easy laugh, the way he talks with his hands or the open, warm look on his face as he speaks, and it doesn’t matter how much glee it may bring Jensen to know that someone he doesn’t know remembers him every day, it can’t amount to that.

There are no notes for two days, and Jensen, just briefly, wants to die.

He wonders if maybe curiosity really got the best out of him, if he pushed too far and stepped on some kind of imaginary line. How are these friendships meant to work, anyway? It’s possible that whoever wrote has learnt more about him and his likes and his dislikes and the smallest details of his life over scribbles on napkin than anybody else in the world, and Jensen sometimes wants to just know who it is that can tell his favorite song and the name of his dog when he was a kid, but could not wave at him if they passed each other down the street. Maybe whoever it was has enough on his hands as it is, prefers the mystery, or worse, doesn’t want to meet him at all.

He sends a note, though, and tea and ginger biscuits, wondering if there was something he really should not have said in one of those notes, if there’s a reason why all of a sudden it feels like he’s sending things and paper to nowhere in particular. He remembers ginger seemed to be something that reminded whoever it was that wrote to him of home, and just for that he expects to be forgiven for whatever he has done. Misha doesn’t speak, but it looks like he wants to, or at least that’s what Jensen would like to think. Whatever the motive, if he’d rather not say, Jensen won’t ask.

His note could not be any simpler. Are you alright?

I hate my life right now, Jared texts. I’m so sick I can’t even move.

Jensen smiles, thrilled at hearing from him again, his thoughts of the notes he didn’t get vanishing completely. Looks like you’re all dropping like flies. Need any help?

The response is almost immediate, and it amuses Jensen that, sick as Jared probably is, he still finds strength enough to try to make him not worry. I’d rather have one of us keep all his health.

Misha looks at Jared with relief when he returns, even if he looks like he’s been run over by a truck, dressed with clothes that look too comfortable even for him, eyes still slightly bloodshot and his face slightly flushed. “Did you manage to not die?”

“It was a close call. Man, I hate the flu.”

Misha tells Jared of everything that went on in the coffee shop (“I made cookies with strawberry bits in them and you missed them.” “Were they amazing?” “No, they came out slightly bitter. But Danneel loved them and took them home.”), in the neighborhood (nothing interesting happens in it, though, ever) and lastly of the one thing Jared has been wanting to hear about all of these days.

Misha puts a plate of cinnamon-ginger cookies coated in thin, white sugar that makes them look like they were snowed on right after they came out of the oven. “I had to bake you a whole new plate, I’m afraid the originals were going stale.” He sets a steaming mug of spiced tea in front of Jared’s face, and Jared’s immediately drawn to the warm taste. “He came here to send you tea and cookies every single day. I’m pretty sure he thinks you hate him, right now.”

Jared looks ready to be sick again.

“Please tell me you have something amazing in stock.”

“When do I ever not?”

It’s almost after a week of silence that Jensen gets his reply. And it’s not a note.

It’s a postcard. It features a vintage image of Santa, red and white over the sepia overtones of the picture, laughing and cheerful and fat and surrounded by all kinds of gifts and reindeers and children that aren’t his (in theory, at least). The writing on the back is black and sharp and clearer than usual.

I’m sorry. My first gift of the year had me in bed for a week. Not in the good way. ATCHOO!

It doesn’t matter if Jensen pretends to remain cool when Misha puts in front of him a plate with a slice of glorious, pristine white angel cake, Jensen’s perfectly aware of the smile creeping at the corner of his mouth, and he knows simply because this was something a part of him waited for all week. Inside, he’s giddy with the thought that this odd friendship is not something he has lost. He clears his throat and looks at the cake like it’s nothing all that impressive, with all that sticky, sweet, creamy frosting framing the slice and making it look like it’s sitting on a cloud.

His fork sinks into it delightfully, and the airy, light texture of the cake, its creamy frosting and the touch of homemade strawberry jam at the side make Jensen forget that he was ever worried.

I’ll forgive you, he writes, this time unable to keep the smile completely off his face, if you can guess my favorite cake.

Jensen texts Miss Harris with almost manic glee before he gets in his car to meet a client, types the word EMERGENCY and is thoroughly satisfied when she frantically texts back a ?!, right before she calls. “What do you need?” She snaps (and Jensen has learnt that his assistant snapping isn’t related to her mood: it’s just the way she is).

“Can you get me a scarf?”


“I believe you own at least one.”

“Huh. Any color in particular?”

It’s a few days later that Jared really notices the watch again, tight and beautiful around Jensen’s wrist, a part of him as natural as his ironed clothes or the bright green eyes. Jensen almost wishes he had not seen it, that Jared has remained as cheerful and careless as ever. But the way Jared’s eyes turn to look at it tell him that, no matter how painful it could be to really, really have to answer the question that’s sure to come his way, he will not be able to hold it against Jared, all goodwill and kindness painted on his face.

“Do you have any family?” Jared asks. Jensen is not surprised he didn’t know that. After all, it’s the one thing he’s been avoiding most of all. “I’m sorry, it’s just… you said you were alone in this town because of work.”

“No offense taken,” Jensen replies, but the way his back straightens must tell Jared that this is not something Jensen finds easy to talk about, and he hates himself for not being able to remain serene. He takes a deep breath. “I do. My mother and my sister are still back at home in Texas. We have not talked very often lately, but I’m getting better at it now. I guess all I needed was some time.”

Jared’s eyes go back to the watch, and Jensen’s follow almost by instinct. Jared swallows hard, almost like he suspects that this is where Jensen will cut the conversation, ask him to not want to know anymore. Jensen finds himself almost all too eager to speak. “And your father? I mean… is that-”

“His watch?” Jensen looks at it as well, every chip and mark made over the years despite the beautiful shape of the metal. All of this time so close to his father’s wrist, now apparently a permanent reminder on his skin. “Yes, it was his.”

Jared’s voice is so quiet when he responds. “Was?”

“He died,” Jensen says, finally, and Jensen finds himself surprised at how easily the words fall out of his lips, like they’d been just waiting at the corner of his smile for the right moment to spill out the moment Jensen could finally bring himself to say it out loud. There’s a tight, sharp pain in his chest, a tightness to his stomach as he talks. “Right before I came into this town. We didn’t- we didn’t really get along the last few years. I think – I think he hated the way I had become.”

Jared’s hand tentatively reaches out to touch his. Jensen doesn’t want to look at him, not directly, not let him see what must be reflected in his eyes, but he allows himself to hold onto his hand, if only briefly, anyway. “What do you mean?”

“Living for my job,” Jensen replies. “Spending so much time at the office that I never really got to see him, or the rest of my family and friends. I guess I just tried so hard to be the best at something that-“ It pains Jensen to admit this after so long, but it’s only now with Jared’s hand in his and many little memories he’s made since they first met that he can understand, “That I forgot it was not the only thing in the world.”

Jared’s eyes never leave his face as he speaks, it’s like he almost doesn’t breathe and barely blinks. Jensen fears that he may try to embrace him, and that if that were the case, he would not be able to keep a straight face or anything like it. It’s been weeks, Jensen knows, but he has not yet allowed himself to cry. “He fell sick. Of course, there was still so much I had to do that I never got to see him when he- Not before he passed.”

There is a moment of silence between them that Jared does his best to fix, with not much success, because Jared, all emotion perfectly readable on his face, looks like he is about to cry. “I didn’t know. I’m so sorry,” he says, and Jensen just nods in response, holds onto his hand tighter, almost like he’s the one calming Jared down.

The watch lingers on his wrist, and Jensen looks at how his precious time passes in the old sphere, the hands of the clock ticking away, passing along with the moment. “It’s a reminder,” Jensen says. “Almost like I had him watching me, like when I was a boy. There’s still something I have to atone for.”

He goes back to work without looking back, avoids the hug that he’s sure Jared would try to give him if given half the chance. It’s only once he gets inside his office that he feels himself shake under the power of all those words and regrets not having taken the chance Jared offered for comfort.

Jared spends most of his night thinking about Jensen, and the morning after, too. He’s weighed down by a sharp sense of regret at not having tried harder at seeing the look on Jensen’s face, of stepping close enough to hold him, even if a part of him knows Jensen well enough to see that at that moment, it was not something Jensen would have easily allowed him to do. He thinks of calling him, like he has thought of so many times before during this long night, but he doesn’t know exactly what to say.

I want to see you, Jared texts, but he doesn’t expect an immediate reply.

“Still trying to find your stranger’s favorite cake?” Misha asks him as soon as he steps into the coffee shop. It seems so foreign to Jared, that question, that he can’t even bring himself to answer. I did not even think about it, Jared thinks, but he can’t say it out loud, not to Misha, who has seen him so excited about the whole idea and was unceremoniously dragged into it. Jared doesn’t want to think about it.

Misha is standing on table, doing his best to hang Christmas decorations in every possible place – the lamps, the pictures, the handlebar of the staircase that leads to the smaller second floor. Misha turns to look at him, apparently pleased enough with his own work until Jared’s close enough for Misha to really see his face. “Jared, oh God.” Misha drops the Christmas decorations all over the first table he can find. “Did something happen?”

“No, just…” A blur of images fill his mind, and he can make sense of very few of them. He remembers every note with perfect clarity, their content, as important or irrelevant it was. The sight of Misha’s cakes on display still makes him feel just the slightest pang of excitement over a note that may be waiting for him, trapped underneath a plate. It’s not even about the food, Jared thinks, but about the idea that you meant something to someone, even if they could not see you. It’s possible, Jared thinks, that he thought about it way too much, when something much more relevant was standing right in front of his eyes. “I don’t really know.”

Misha pulls out a chair and makes Jared sit down, leans on the closest table, unknowingly breaking a plastic snowflake until he hears it snap. “Damn,” he mutters, but his attention falls on Jared soon enough, “You don’t even want to try? Jared, I don’t think it matters if you don’t guess it right, you know. Even if right now it may seem like the most important thing in the world.”

Jared wants to laugh at that. Of course it’s not. But back then, maybe, only for a second, he thought so. “Misha,” he starts. “What happens if I just don’t want to go along with this anymore?”

His friend looks confused. “What made you change your mind?”

Jared tries to ponder for a second. “Nothing. Or, at least, nothing that this person ever did wrong.” He searches for the right words, something that will make him not sound as stupid as he feels. “You know how important this was for me, how much… effort I put into finding the right thing to say, the right way to make whoever that was feel it.”

“And where is your problem?”

Jared finds himself pretty much unable to explain. “I cared so much, you know. I almost thought – maybe for a moment – that it could be someone I could feel something for. I thought… I don’t know, I left it in your hands to find someone who would understand that would walk inside the shop just at the right moment,” His voice is almost breaking, and the last of his words come out as a whisper. “Something like fate.”

Misha sighs, but there’s a vague trace of a smile on his face which Jared can’t quite understand. “But Jared, that can only be your choice. Don’t you have a say in any of this?”

Jared wants to tell him everything about Jensen, just let it all out, knowing that there isn’t anyone in the world that he can trust more with his problem right at this very moment. “I don’t know. What if I thought I was in love?”

“With the stranger?”

“No. I mean, yes. I think I don’t really know, and I don’t know how to- Misha, what if- What if the person that came in here felt the same way I did?”

It’s then that Misha gives him a look that so far, Jared has only seen reserved for very special occasions. It makes him feel too young and too stupid, the way his friend seems torn between outrage and eternal patience. “You don’t know if you’re in love with someone who is perfectly real or a few notes and some cake?” Jared remains quiet after Misha’s words, but once the words are hanging in the air, they become real. Jared doesn’t know how he could have ever doubted after he hears it from Misha’s mouth.

“Misha, I’m sorry. I put you through all of this, and now I’m just-“

“Hey,” Misha snaps, but his friend’s face softens as soon as Jared looks up at him in worry. He ruffles Jared’s hair and starts picking up his decorations, goes back to hanging them in the best places he can find. “Do you prefer to wonder, just for a second, about something that was little more than smoke and mirrors, or regret missing something that was right in front of your face?”

Jared sighs. “Don’t you think I should still finish what I start? What if I don’t guess the right cake? Will that prove that all of this friendship was for naught?”

Misha smiles. “Honestly? I think he would forgive you.” And then he lays on the counter a small bag and another note, this time in the usual napkin with the clear, careful handwriting taking over the logo of the shop.

Jared takes a deep breath at the sight of the package, braces himself for the last moment he will allow himself to think of this as something he needs, the memory of Jensen’s smile still in his mind. He opens the bag with the utmost reverence and pulls out a long red scarf, woolly and warm, carefully knitted and soft to the touch, slides his hands through the fabric like he thinks it will come apart and fade when his hands are not in contact with it.

Avoid further inconveniences. For your own sake.

Jared’s heart skips a beat, still, as he’s frozen on the spot. He knows that this is someone who cares enough, maybe just as much as he did as the notes progressed. This was real, as much as anything else. But Jared thinks of fate and choice and everything he could say to this person he has never met about the love they never actually got to share.

But there’s way too much that tells Jared that, as beautiful as it could have been, that is not what his heart chose. He remembers the way Jensen’s open, clear emotions show so rarely in his eyes, not guarded or in the slightest insecure, those few moments when Jared has managed to, maybe for just a second, had him come out of his shell. Jared may just spend longer than he should contemplating the shade of Jensen’s eyes under the cold winter sun, the flutter of his eyelashes when Jared isn’t talking and Jensen seems to still feel perfectly calm, just the two of them, and that seems to be enough.

Jared wants to talk, soon enough, and tell Jensen this curious story about a handful of notes, of this someone he has never met, and pecan pie that was sent to him and that he could only think of sharing with Jensen, instead, a lot more than he wants this person in the notes to know all about Jensen and the ways Jared finds to make him smile.

These notes, as much as they have meant to him, could just be a secret that Jared will keep just this much longer before it becomes something he’ll laugh about in a few years. But Jensen, the shade of his eyes and the look on his face right before Jared takes him to a new place, that’s something Jared would never share.

He stands at Misha’s shop with a scarf in his hands that not that long ago could have meant the world, but now, all he wants when he remembers Jensen’s guilt over his father’s death, all that distress, is to tell Jensen that he loves the way his face lights up when Jared talks about something that could interest him, or the fact that Jensen tells Jared all about his tight schedule and where he has to go next and yet never looks at the time, and mostly, that way he laughs when he finds something hilarious – eyes closed in glee and perfect smile half-hidden by that hand he lifts without noticing, almost like he has to keep that laugh at bay – makes Jared feel like he is the most amazing person in the world, and that for a second he even believes it.

Jared didn’t know what he wanted, and that is something he knows now for sure, and now every doubt he could have ever had dissolves like sugar in hot tea.

“I owe him an apology,” Jared says, point to a slice of simple chocolate cake Misha’s got on the display, simple in comparison to his many frosted, gorgeous confections. “And after all of this time, I think I should say it face to face.”

Misha stops working as soon as he hears Jared’s words, seems to turn serious. “Listen, Jared, maybe there is something I should tell you-“

Jared’s phone goes off right at that very moment, and he picks it up like it’s the most important thing in the world – and it could be, for him. But as much as its Jensen’s voice he’s hoping to hear, it’s Alona on the other side, sounding distressed and lost and talking about an emergency so fast that Jared can barely make out the details, and he misses Misha’s words completely. “I’m coming,” he says, and with a quick wave to his friend, he’s out the door.

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Aug. 14th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
My heart is breaking. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?
Jared, Jared, Jared, please don't do this.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )