No Not at All
Jensen’s freshman year goes by in a whirlwind. Classes are challenging, but his grades are decent enough.
He tries out for the football team and makes second string, much to his father’s delight. Once football season heats up, he spends most of each game sitting on the bench in his hideous orange and blue jersey. That’s to be expected though, considering he’s only a freshman. He attends every practice, trains, and works out, and he’s improving. The coaches tell him that come next year, after the seniors graduate, he has a chance at first string. His parents come to every game. They sit in the stands and his mom waves at him, proud as punch that her baby boy is on the team, never mind that he rarely steps foot out onto the field. When the Wildcats score, his dad yells so loudly that Jensen can hear him no matter how far back they’re sitting.
Fall progresses into a mild Texas winter. For Christmas, his parents get him a dirt bike and a leather jacket. He loves both presents dearly. There’s an empty field not too far from his house and it’s perfect for taking her out, opening her up full throttle, just to see how fast she’ll go. Hillocks and depressions in the ground send him airborne from time to time, adding to the exhilaration factor. He has plans to build some ramps and moguls once school’s out.
Spring brings his birthday. On March first that year he turns fifteen. The very next day, he begins pestering his parents to take him to the DMV so he can get his learner’s permit. It doesn’t take much to talk them into it. All he has to do is bring up the bike and they agree it’s a good idea.
Yeah, life is pretty sweet, and woven in and through every part of his life, like an integral thread in a tapestry, is Jared. Without any effort, that introverted boy who had seemed intent on hiding behind his shaggy bangs the first day of Biology class, becomes Jensen’s best friend. They just seem to get each other, intuitively.
Jensen’s grades are good, but Jared’s are better. He’s like Einstein-level intelligent, so friggin’ smart. And compassionate too. Wants to be a veterinarian when he gets out of school. Not only that, but turns out he’s an amazing artist. The day he finally lets Jensen see what he’s been drawing, Jensen is completely blown away. It’s a graphic novel called Supernatural about two brothers named Sam and Dean who drive the backroads of America in their classic ‘67 Chevy Impala, fighting monsters. The story has horror elements and plenty of action, but at its core, it’s a story about the importance of family. Jensen loves it and has made it his mission to convince Jared it’s good enough to have published. All that’s standing in his way is Jared’s lack of self-confidence. They’re still working on that.
As the school year ends and summer approaches, they begin making plans for how they’ll spend all their free time. They both want to get jobs, start earning money towards buying a car. They figure it will take half the time if they both pitch in and buy the car together. Only problem is, Jensen is fifteen and not many places will want to hire him until he turns sixteen, almost a whole year from now. Jared turns sixteen in July so it might be easier for him, but they’re hoping to find someplace that will hire them both.
Jared’s older brother, Jeff, is the one who suggests the Eastside Farmers’ Market. A collection of booths and stalls where local farmers and crafters sell their wares, it’s the perfect place for two strong boys to find work where their employer will be less concerned about their ages and more concerned with how much they can haul and lift. And that’s exactly what happens. They both get hired on by a farmer who is happy to pay them cash under the table from his stall’s sales every day in exchange for their help loading and unloading his produce. Not long after that, other farmers start asking for their help as they build reputations for being hard workers. It’s the ideal gig because basically they decide when they want to work and for how long. As soon as they show up at the market, they have farmers clamoring for their help.
Even with their high demand at the market, they still find plenty of time to goof off. One super hot afternoon in late July, two days before Jared’s birthday, finds them sprawled out in Jensen’s living room, watching The Fog on DVD for the second time. The movie is freaky as hell, but since they’ve seen it before, they’re not paying all that much attention to what’s on screen. Jensen is sitting lengthwise on the couch, his feet in Jared’s lap, playing a game on his Nintendo DS. Jared has one hand resting on Jensen’s ankles. They’ve taken to sitting like that more often than not. It’s just a comfort thing, nothing more.
Jared has the artist’s sketch pad he got for Christmas propped up on the sofa arm and is drawing a page for his graphic novel. Looks like the two brothers sitting in their black muscle car, parked by the side of the road, word bubbles over their heads, from what Jensen can see.
Jensen’s mom pokes her head around the corner from the kitchen. “You boys getting hungry? I could bring you some snacks. We have fried chicken left over from dinner last night.”
Jensen looks up from his game, cocks his head at Jared and raises one eyebrow. Jared gives a sheepish smile and nods even though they just ate a big bowl of ice cream each at the farmers market after they finished laying out flats of flowers for Farmer Solis. “That would be great mom, thanks,” he says, using the heel of his foot to nudge Jared’s stomach. That boy is always hungry.
Laughing, Jared pushes Jensen’s feet off his lap. “Cut it out, jerk.”
“What? You’re a bottomless pit. I was just trying to figure out where you put it all.”
“A growing boy’s gotta eat.” Jared flexes and stretches his arms over his head, much less shy now that Jensen’s mom has gone back to the kitchen. A little strip of Jared’s tanned hip is revealed where his shirt rides up and Jensen can’t help taking a peek. They see each other with their shirts off all the time when they’re working outside in the hot sun. This is different somehow though, this tantalizing glimpse seems forbidden and that much more enticing because of it. Not that he’s perving on his best friend. Well, at least not in a bad way.
His mom returns, bearing a platter of fried chicken. “Here you go,” she beams at them.
“Um, thanks Mrs. Ackles,” Jared says.
“Yeah, thanks Mom. You’re awesome.” Jensen grabs a thigh and sinks his teeth through the crispy coating and right into the meat. Chicken juice runs down his chin. His mom makes the best fried chicken in the whole world.
Both his mom and Jared are looking at him, his mom in feigned dismay, but Jared is staring at his mouth with what looks like amazement. Jensen licks the juice from his lips and grins.
His mother shakes her head, muttering “boys” on her way back to the kitchen.
Jared shakes his head, bites into his own piece of chicken and, mouth full, says, “What’d you want to do tomorrow? It’s supposed to be nice out, not as hot as today, and we don’t hafta work.”
“I was thinking we could take the bike to the field. The ramp’s ready. Wanna see how much air we can get.” They’d built the ramp out of wood scavenged from crates and palettes no longer being used at the farmers market. Last time they were out at the field, they finished building it, but it was too dark to ride the dirt bike over it. Jensen is a bit of a daredevil, but he’s not stupid enough to try a stunt like that in the dark.
“Cool,” Jared nods. Jared’s parents won’t let him have a dirt bike. They say it’s too dangerous. They know Jensen has one and they don’t approve, they don’t want Jared riding it. Jared rides it anyway, he just doesn’t tell them.
Jared’s mom is one of those ultra-protective helicopter moms. She doesn’t like him doing anything even remotely dangerous and she treats him like he’s in grade school. Even now that he’s almost sixteen, she still picks out his clothes every morning and packs his lunch for school. It’s sweet in a way, but come on...there’s a world of difference between six years old and sixteen. And that reminds him, “Hey Jared, what’re you doing for your birthday?”
“Mom and Dad usually take me out for dinner on my birthday, other than that, nothing. Why?”
“Do ya think they’d give you an extension on your curfew? You know, since it’s your sweet sixteen and all, like maybe until after midnight? One o’clock at the latest?”
“Maybe...” Jared finishes off the drumstick he’s been working on, licks his fingers, and looks at Jensen, head cocked to the side, floppy hair falling in his eyes. He looks like a confused puppy. “What’s going on?”
“I wanna take you someplace for your birthday. It’s a surprise.” At Jared’s continued stare, Jensen rolls his eyes. “Don’t worry, you’ll like it. It’ll be fun.”
“Yeah, okay. I’ll ask.”
Fog rolls across the television screen, ominous and sinister, an omen of the bad things about to happen to the poor people on Antonio Island. Jensen takes another bite of chicken, chewing happily as Elizabeth and Nick try to solve the mystery of the fog and save their friends.
He’s looking forward to Jared’s surprise birthday gift, has had it planned for a while now, and has already talked Jared’s big brother Jeff into dropping them off and picking them up when it’s over. They’re going to see Rocky Horror Picture Show at the old Cineplex. Jensen went last year with a bunch of friends, but he doesn’t think Jared’s ever been. It’ll be great.
The plate of chicken is nearly empty, and the movie is over when Jared’s phone rings. He fishes it out of his pocket and flips it open. A short conversation later and he turns to Jensen. “That was my mom. She wants me to come home. Dad will be here soon to get me.”
Jared’s mom has realized she has to make him come home if she wants to see her son at all these days, so they’re used to these phone calls. Left to his own devices, Jared would spend all his spare time at the Ackles’ house. The way Jared tells it, his house is more of a museum than a home, everything pristine and nothing out of place. Their couches are not meant for lounging around, eating fried chicken, they’re meant for sitting daintily and drinking tea.
Plus, there’s the little fact that Jared’s mom doesn’t seem to like Jensen very much. Jensen doesn’t know why, but whenever they try to hang out at Jared’s house, Mrs. Padalecki gets progressively more and more snippy until Jensen can’t take it anymore and leaves. Jared says she’s like that with everyone. Whether that’s true or not, it’s just easier for them to be at the Ackles house when they have nothing else to do.
Jared huffs as he gathers up his sketch pad and puts on his shoes. “Two more days and I can get my driver’s license. I can’t wait.”
“Yeah, and we’ll be able to afford a car soon. I bet we have enough saved up by the end of the summer.”
Both boys grin, thinking of the freedom having a car will bring.
Jensen counts himself lucky to have such a perfect place to run his bike within easy distance of his house. The field hasn’t been used to grow crops the last couple years. Yellowed patches of grass and stalks dot the hard, dry ground. Whoever owns it must be letting it rest fallow. Either that or they’re getting it ready for some other use. Whatever the reason, no one has kicked him off it yet and he’s taking that as permission.
His dirt bike gleams in the early morning sun. She’s exquisite and Jensen prides himself on taking very good care of her. Sure, he rides her rough at times, puts her in some damn difficult situations and expects her to perform, but afterwards, he washes and dries her, inspects and lubricates the chain, and pampers her like the spirited lady she is.
The morning is already warm, not a cloud in the sky. He takes off his leather jacket. The black tank he’s wearing underneath won’t be much protection if he wipes out, that’s why he doesn’t plan on wiping out. Since Jared’s not here yet, Jensen decides to put his bike through her paces, get warmed up and ready for the main event, the six foot high ramp. That’ll come later, once Jared gets here. He wouldn’t dream of trying it without him. They built it together, Jared should be here the first time the bike sails over it.
Helmet on his head, Jensen flexes his gloved fingers, stretching the leather to make sure his grip on the handlebars is secure. The engine revs, power building between his legs, and then he’s off like a rocket, hot wind in his face, scrub grass getting torn up under his wheels. He makes a couple laps around the open field before Jared pedals up on his bicycle.
Coming to a stop in front of his friend, Jensen removes his helmet, runs a hand through his sweaty hair where it’s stuck to his head. “No one around to drive you?”
“Nah, everyone was busy this morning. It’s no big.”
Biking has become their only dependable means of transportation this summer and they’ve both become experts at it what with needing a way to the farmers market most days. They can’t always count on getting rides from family members. On the bright side, Jensen’s muscles are getting a better workout than when he was in training for football.
“You tried it out yet?” Jared asks, nodding at the ramp.
“Was waiting for you. You want first shot?” Jensen holds the helmet out to Jared.
Shaking his head, Jared gets off his bicycle, kicking down the stand before gracelessly throwing himself on the ground. He rolls onto his back, long coltish legs falling apart, and puts his hands under his head, eyes closed. “Need a minute to catch my breath. You go ahead.”
Of its own accord, Jensen’s gaze flicks to Jared’s crotch, then away just as quickly. Jeez, cut it out Ackles, he chastises himself. Out loud he says, “Ok Lance Armstrong, you rest up from your long trek, I’m gonna see what m’baby can do.” Helmet back on, he revs the engine a couple times just for fun and peels off.
He takes the long way around the field so he can line up with the ramp better. His heart starts thumping harder, adrenaline building. He’s taken jumps before, but nothing this high. Revving the engine again, he picks up speed, faster, faster. The bike roars beneath him, ferocious and proud, sure of herself. Straight ahead, like a sleeping dragon, lies the ramp. This is going to be epic.
At the critical moment, Jensen looks over to make sure Jared’s watching. He is and that makes him feel...invincible, indestructible, like he’s Sam or Dean going up against a wendigo. When he returns his attention forward again to the ramp, it’s closer than he thought it would be. Is he going fast enough? It’s too late to stop, too late to get more speed. The bike’s wheels skew slightly in a rocky patch right before they hit the ramp. He guns the engine as he rushes up, up, up, airborne. For several breathless seconds he’s weightless. Then, gravity kicks back in. The ground rushes toward him in a blur of brown and yellow.
The bike is canted to the side and try as he might he can’t get it straightened out. Somehow, as fast as he’s going, time slows and he has time to think. If he stays the way he is, when he lands, the bike is going to crush his leg. So, he let’s go of the handlebars midair and lets the bike careen away from him.
He lands on his back and rolls. His vision whites out, all the air gets punched out of his body and none returns. Dazed, he lies there and waits for his lungs to start working again. They don’t. Air, he needs air. He struggles to sit up, panicking. He wants the helmet off, now! If he gets the helmet off, he might be able to breathe. Black spots begin floating in front of his eyes and he can’t get the helmet off. Shit!
“Jen! Jesus Christ, Jensen! Are you alright? Don’t move. I’ve got ya.” Jared is suddenly there, gently removing the helmet, and Jensen latches onto him, grabs two fistfuls of his shirt and holds on for dear life. Air slowly trickles down his throat. He gasps in, greedy for more. “There you go, relax and breathe. You got this.” Jared’s arms close around him loosely, providing support while still giving him plenty of room to draw in huge lungfuls of sweet, sweet air.
Sagging in relief, Jensen’s head falls to Jared’s shoulder. He looks up to see his friend’s concerned blue-green eyes boring into him, face so close he can smell the cinnamon toast and orange juice he must have had for breakfast and his minty toothpaste. “Yeah, I’m okay.” He takes another gulp of air. “Just got the wind knocked out of me, s’all,” he assures, but he makes no effort to move, still too shaken.
Jared holds him closer, whispers, “Oh thank God, you scared the crap out of me, dude. I thought you broke your neck for sure.”
Jensen can’t think of anything to say to that. All he can think about are Jared’s lips which are mere inches away. It would take only the smallest movement and their lips would touch, nothing more than a slight shift forward and...
Jared releases him, cheeks gone pick like they get when he’s embarrassed about something. “You sure you’re okay? Maybe you should lie down. Does your head hurt? Your neck? I don’t think you’re supposed to move after a fall like that.”
Disappointed in himself, in his feelings for his best friend which are obviously not returned, Jensen sighs and shakes off Jared’s lightly restraining hand. “My neck’s not broken, Jare. I’m fine.”
“Just help me up, ‘kay?” Jensen takes the hand Jared extends to him and gets slowly to his feet. “Where’s my bike? Did you see where it landed?”
“It’s over there.” Jared’s voice sounds mournful, making Jensen’s stomach clench. If his bike is yard sale fodder, he doesn’t know what he’ll do.
Following the direction Jared is pointing, he sees her, lying on her side, dust dulled and forlorn. “Oh no, look at you. Are you hurt, baby?” he croons to the bike as he sets her upright, running his hands over the metal, checking for dents or scratches. The ones he finds are superficial, with a little TLC he can have her buffed up and looking good as new. “Don’t you worry, sweetheart. I can fix you right up.”
Jared starts laughing his ass off.
“What’s so funny?” Jensen asks, honestly baffled by what his friend could possibly find so humorous.
“Nothing,” Jared chuckles again. “S’just the way you talk to that bike. Like it’s your best girl. I don’t know why but it seems like something Dean would do, you know? You mind if I use that for my book? Have Dean treat his car like she has feelings, call her ‘baby’ and ‘sweetheart’ like you do your bike?”
Jensen scoffs. “‘Course she has feelings. Dean’s car is a classic. She’s a lady through and through, you can see it in her sleek lines. And he’s had that car forever, right? She’s family.”
Jared nods. “Yeah, I think so too. And it’s true, she is family.” His expression gets serious. “What about you, you’ve got scrapes all over your arms. We should go home and get you cleaned up.”
Jensen looks himself over and is surprised to see that Jared isn’t being overly dramatic. Without his protective leather jacket, he’s amassed a slew of scrapes on his arms and a particularly nasty looking gash on his side where he must have come in contact with a rock or stick when he rolled. High adrenaline levels kept him from feeling any pain until now. But now that he knows they’re there, they sting like a sonofabitch. Still, he shakes his head. “No, I can’t leave it like this, I won’t let it beat me. We’re better than that. We can do it.” He pats his bike, knowing she wants another go at it as well.
“You can’t be serious. You’re not planning to try again. Not now.”
His mother likes to tell him that he’s the most stubborn person she knows. Guess he’s about to prove her right. “I have to Jare. If I don’t do it now, it’ll eat me up until I get another chance and who knows when that’ll be. It’s gotta be now.” As he speaks, he mounts his bike and kickstarts it, encouraged when the engine catches and growls to life on the first try. She’s definitely up for this.
“Be careful.” Jared reaches over and puts a hand on his neck, squeezes like he’s hoping to impart some deeper meaning, then hands him his helmet. Worry knots Jared’s brow, giving him a stern expression.
Jensen thinks to brush off Jared’s worry, call him ‘mom’ or ‘a girl’ for expressing his concern so openly. If it was Jared doing something he considered reckless though, he’d be just as concerned, so he doesn’t tease. Instead he says, “I will, promise.”
Taking a detour to retrieve and don his jacket, he completes a circuit and lines up with the ramp. This time he approaches his mission differently. This time he’s all concentration, lets his consciousness expand, noting wind direction and strength, scanning the ground for rocks or loose dirt that may hamper his direction and speed. Course mapped out in his head, he becomes laser focused, aware of only the bike rumbling beneath him and his adversary, the ramp. Those two things are the only ones that matter. The bike gives a throaty snarl and vibrations surge up his calves and thighs. He feels like the bike is part of him, an extension of his own body.
He accelerates. The distance to the ramp diminishes, chewed up under his wheels. His vision tunnels until the only thing he sees is the ramp, getting closer and closer. One goal. One purpose. He hits the ramp at a perfect velocity. The bike’s wheels are straight and true. Everything comes together flawlessly and, as he sails through the air, he knows without a shadow of a doubt that his determination has paid off. He knows he’s nailed it.
Jared rushes up to him, whooping and hollering like a man possessed. Jensen brings his bike to a stop and jumps off just before Jared grabs him up in an enthusiastic hug.
“Victory,” Jared yells in his ear.
Jensen laughs, joy and adrenaline bleeding off him. The hug is everything he wants and not nearly enough. It’s a friendly hug, a brotherly hug. Jensen wishes for more even as he’s thrilled to his core with what he’s got. He has Jared as his best friend. What more could he ask for? Nothing. And everything.
Link to Chapter 5
Link to the Master Post