Jensen, 8th October 2009.
With her looks and her brains, Samantha Smith could have been cast perfectly as a Desperate Housewife, or so Jensen thought. She’d been his manager ever since he went commercial, and they’d gotten to know each other well during that time. She’d watched him go from a Pollock-y expressionistic influence when he began, to the increasingly contemporary realism stuff he was into now, albeit with his own brand of wild abstractionism thrown into the mix. Through it all, her patronage for his talent and her faith in his viability never wavered.
And while she could be a shrewd businesswoman when needed, Jensen knew she also cared for him like he were family.
“Are you sure this is what you want, sweetie?” She asked him for like the hundredth time.
Jensen stood leaning against the newly refurbished granite kitchen counter. He looked around at his old apartment, on the eighteenth floor of the Chelsea Vanguard. The same apartment he’d lived in for four years, until he’d decided to get rid of it.
“I know, you probably think I’m losing my mind…”
Sam smirked. “Nonsense, I’d never think that. You’ve been crazy since the day I met you.”
Jensen chuckled, and Sam walked over to stand beside him, leaning against the said counter. The place looked pretty much the same, except furniture was hidden under white sheets, and all the heavy window drapes were down, keeping the bright sun out. Jensen never kept the windows covered; he preferred to be able to look out into the sky from every nook and corner of his apartment.
“Do you really think this would help?”
Jensen shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s worth a try. Face my demons and all that shit, like the shrink says.”
“You could take your time, you know, try South East Asia next, maybe?” she offered gently. “I mean, the art market is slow anyway, and you have enough saved to live off of for a decade, at least.”
“It’s never been about the money, Sam, you know that.”
“Of course. I just don’t want to leave you alone here, sweetie.”
Jensen put an arm around her, and planted a soft kiss on her cheek. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I need to do this, Sam, I really do.”
“Anything else I can do to help?”
Jensen thought about it. “I could use a cleaning service?”
Sam laughed, and made the call. After a light take-out lunch, she left, and Jensen stood in the middle of the living room, alone, already drowning in his regrets.
He swiveled around on his feet, again and again, and one more time after that. He wondered how life would have turned out if he hadn’t laid eyes on Tristan at all. Maybe he’d have asked Matt to move in here with him. Maybe they would have still been together, built a life together.
Fact was, his relationship with Matt had been eroding for a long time before Tristan entered their lives. Jensen had truly tried, and waited, hoping he’d grow to love Matt as much as Matt loved him, but never could. Far as his tastes ran – nice guys did finish last. He knew he liked them slightly rogue, kinda wild, dangerous even. Not the kind, refined and charming gentleman that Matt Bomer was.
Naturally, a part of Jensen thought maybe it was his own fault – inviting a strange kid from the Bronx into his house. He’d been way too trusting, helpless to resist the mystery that was Tristan. And what a page-turner the guy turned out to be – a fucking crook, a ruthless conman, and a good one at that. He was still out there by the way, probably living it up somewhere in Cancun, enjoying the spoils of his unscrupulous young life.
When it was time to escape the hospital, Jensen couldn’t bear to spend another day in this apartment, nor by painful extension, in this city. Matt saw it coming before Jensen could even say the words, and made himself scarce. Under normal circumstances, Jensen would have worried, but he’d been in no position to focus on anyone or anything except the excruciating rage and self-derision choking his heart and numbing his brain the longer he stuck around. He had to get away, from this cesspit of bad memories, from the rabid press dogging him wherever he went, from his overly fussy family and friends.
He decided to flee to Europe.
Living in Paris helped his body heal. But it didn’t turn out to be as inspiring or uplifting as he’d hoped it would be. New York refused to leave him wherever he went. Some of his best work had happened right here in this apartment. But now, ever since he’d left, he’d been having a dry spell. His muse was completely blocked.
So he’d resolved to come back to where he’d lost it all. If he had to be miserable no matter where he stayed, what was wrong with Manhattan? Besides, he figured (with his shrink’s help) that maybe by confronting his past, he might be able to get past it once and for all, become the artist he once used to be. Painting was all he knew, all he was ever good at, all he ever wanted to do.
Jensen owed it to himself to try again, and not let one stupid burglary assault (and a broken heart) snatch that away from him.
He decided to install his home gym and punching bag (the one he’d bought in Nice and had been lugging around with him ever since) in the guest bedroom. After he’d exhausted himself putting together the ‘work-out’ room, he turned towards the second bedroom which used to be his studio. That placed used to come to life every time a tall, almond-eyed kid stepped into it. Jensen trembled as he went to the spot where his easel used to be, and looked up across the room to where he’d laid Tristan down, contoured by the beautiful city skyline behind him.
Such wickedness lurking behind such beauty… how could Jensen have not seen it? Or maybe he did. Maybe it’s what attracted him to Tristan in the first place.
The next few days went by settling in: unpacking, shopping for groceries and art supplies and moving and shifting stuff around to set up his studio. Jensen couldn’t wait to start painting again. But a week later when everything else was in place, his muse still refused to cooperate.
He left emails or voice messages with the few friends he’d made back in the day, letting them know he was back in town. Every single one of them called back, but Jensen couldn’t bring himself to pick up the phone. Every single one left messages – glad he was back, good to know he was still alive and kicking, they should catch up sometime, how about this Saturday?
Jensen never bothered to respond.
The only guy Jensen did try reaching was Matt. He felt this giant need to mend things with his ex, to somehow find an opportunity to apologize for his inconsiderate behavior back then. Matt, unsurprisingly, refused to oblige. He did not take Jensen’s calls, nor did he respond to any of his messages; twelve to be exact.
It wasn’t like Jensen could use the excuse of a new piece of art as a conversation-starter either. Of the four hundred odd galleries in Chelsea alone, the E.Durance was the only one that Jensen had ever used for promotion and sale of his art. In fact, that was how he and Matt had first met.
One slow, chilly Monday afternoon, he decided to take a walk through the art colony in Chelsea in hopes of getting his muse stimulated, or at least worried that he hadn’t been on the public scene for a long time. Unlike movie stars, artists and sculptors, even the truly famous ones, never got recognized all that much. Only true connoisseurs of art would know their faces but they’d be too refined and polite to bother someone. Especially Jensen, who looked and acted so aloof he might as well be wearing a sign around his neck that said 'Trespassers will be persecuted, possibly glared to death'.
Jensen kept his gaze down at his shoes or up at the art in the windows he walked past. When he came to the E.Durance, he paused, hoping to catch a glimpse of Matt from the outside of what looked like a newly renovated gallery, bigger, and swankier. Jensen stood around for awhile, smoking a couple of Marlboro Lights on the street, feeling like an idiot and more than a little stalker-ish. He gave up after thirty minutes; evidently neither partner was in at the moment. Disappointed, he turned back towards his fortress of solitude, leaving a thirteenth message on Matt’s mobile as he walked.
“Hi, me again. Look, I realize I’m probably starting to creep you out but trust me – I’m not looking to revive old times here or shit. I know you’ve moved on, and I guess… I just… damn it. Mattie, I just want to know if you’re okay. And if… you wanna try and maybe be friends again? I’m working so hard to put the past behind me, really I am. And I need your help to–”
The voicemail cut him off. Jensen sighed, and flipped his phone shut. He needed a drink, but it wasn’t even four yet. So he settled for caffeine instead.
A Starbucks stood right under the Chelsea Vanguard, on a fast, hustling-and-bustling street that Jensen could conveniently ignore up on his luxurious eighteenth floor. He went past the building entrance to go to the café, casually glancing around him. He spotted a homeless guy, among other random things, crouched tightly beside a fire hydrant on the other side of the road, looking like he’d been sitting there for quite some time. He’d made himself comfortable, sitting with his knees folded up into his chest over a big pile of newspapers. A coffee cup from Starbucks was clutched between his hands, being used it to warm him up. And he was looking into the cup with great intensity, as if willing the liquid inside to never go cold, never disappear.
At first, Jensen looked away, not thinking much of the guy except wondering fleetingly what a homeless man was doing in a rather elite neighborhood like this one. The second time he glanced back, the hobo seemed to sense that he was being watched and looked up. Jensen slowed his gait, narrowing his eyes as he took a closer look. Something was awfully familiar about this guy…
The homeless man stirred and started to unfurl, as if suddenly realizing what or who he was looking at. He was filthy, obviously, dressed in tattered ill-fitting jeans, a pair of boots that looked like they’d helped some brave old fireman serve an entire lifetime in the business, and what possibly might have once been a red parka jacket for a tall, plus-sized woman. The hair was – not blond, not blond at all. It was a greasy jet black, or maybe dark brown, and it was long, almost shoulder-length, hidden under a barely together black skull cap. The face was thin and lined with dirt, heavily ‘stached and bearded and the lips were practically blue with cold and clearly chapped. And the eyes… the narrowed slits of his eyes were blown wide open, reminiscent of a pair of peculiarly shaped eyes Jensen once knew, ones that changed color with the mood of the man they belonged to. Right then, at this distance, he couldn’t make out what color they were, but they sure looked dark. And they sure recognized Jensen, seeming almost relieved to do so.
As if reading his mind, the homeless guy blinked, keeping his eyes closed for longer, much longer than needed. And then he stood up.
Jensen felt the earth beneath his feet shift and melt away. It was the man rising to his full distinctive height of six feet four that clicked it all into place. Jensen couldn’t believe it. He told himself he was seeing things. He forced himself to turn away, started towards the coffee shop in a hurry. And when he gathered the courage to look again, there he still was, standing frozen, staring purposefully at Jensen.
The name spilled from Jensen’s lips in a harsh whisper, shrouded in a mouthful of steam and emotions he’d refused to verbalize in years.
The men stood still, gawking at each other from across the street while the rest of the world went about its way around them. No one threw them a second glance, no one cared. Neither of the two moved for what felt a small eternity.
Abruptly, Jensen blinked, forcefully, as if struggling to break himself out of a trance. He pushed his hands back into his pockets, suddenly realizing how cold it was, and turned away. Without a backward glance, he continued on his way to the coffee shop, went inside and ordered a Venti-sized drink. For a change he didn’t mind waiting in line, not whining about the ten minutes of his life that he lost and would never get back.
When he stepped back out, Tristan hadn’t moved from his spot. Jensen looked at him once, forcing his eyes to glass over with… something, hatred maybe, indifference, hopefully. He casually took a sip of his chai latte, and looked away. He didn’t acknowledge Tristan again as he stepped into the Vanguard lobby, nodded at the concierge and went up to his apartment.
He wasn’t going to get any sleep that night, or several ones after that.
Jensen, 7th November 2009.
Jensen carried on with a mundane existence he called life – following the same unproductive routine every day and night.
He’d wake up at seven without an alarm clock, start his day with coffee and a cigarette, work out in his gym and whale away at his punching bag for an hour, jump into the shower, then come out and make himself breakfast. Some days he would cook something elaborate like bacon and French toast. Other days cereal would suffice. Then he’d go and stand in front of his easel for hours – starting a couple of sketches then summarily scrapping them, tearing the failed canvas to pieces because the blankness of them taunted him to near tears.
Finally he’d give up around noon, go to the balcony and light a cigarette. And there he’d stand for the longest time, peering down at the miniature-sized world passing him by, from the safety of his ivory tower.
Everyone went about their jobs like busy little ants on foot or in toy cars. Everyone that is, except one little dot on the other side of the 24th street, the one that stood static, at about the same spot every day, from sunrise to sunset. Where Tristan went to after that, Jensen didn’t know. Nor did he care, or so he told himself every day, every time he stood in his balcony, his green eyes seeking out that dot.
Evenings were usually spent reading or teeing off at the Golf club on Pier 59, followed by a drink or two with fellow players, fending off advances from men and women alike. Of course, going out meant driving out to the street, past Tristan, in the same black Tundra that Tristan had been in minutes before he destroyed Jensen’s life.
Nights were when he’d come back, pause outside the parking garage, trying to spot Tristan somewhere, anywhere. But the ‘homeless’ man would be long gone by then, only to come back again the next morning, all through October and straight into November.
It started to snow in November.
Jensen made plans to go home for Thanksgiving. He’d missed all family holidays these past two years and he really needed to make up for it or his mom wouldn't forgive him for as long as he lived. Matt still wouldn’t return his messages, which was exactly what he deserved. So yeah, life went on.
One Saturday afternoon sometime after three, he came down to the lobby on a whim, and found the concierge, Mr. Beaver, standing by the revolving glass doors, his hands clasped behind his back in a professional stance. The Vanguard wasn’t supposed to have a concierge originally. But because of what happened to Jensen, management decided to put in more security measures, a concierge being one of them. This one was a friendly older man, a Marine veteran or something. Jensen couldn’t be sure if his name was actually Beaver or just a call sign that stuck. Jensen started to walk up to him, in hopes of having someone to make small talk with, something he hadn’t done in three days. Before he could open his mouth though, he followed the man’s line of sight, curious to see what he was so completely absorbed by.
He paused, his good mood evaporating at the sight awaiting him across the street. Suddenly the idea of small talk didn’t seem all that appealing. Jensen turned to make a swift retreat.
Too late. Jensen twisted back around to face Mr. Beaver. “Hi, I, uh… you look like you’re on a break.”
“I am. Care to join me? I have great coffee.”
Mr. Beaver smiled, and Jensen didn’t want to know what the old man knew to make him smile so darn knowingly. He relented and walked up to the concierge, allowed him to pour him hot coffee in a Styrofoam cup from a silver thermos. Jensen took a tentative sip. Beaver wasn’t exaggerating; it really was great coffee.
“Mind if I ask you something, Mr. Ackles?”
“Only if you call me Jensen.”
“Deal. My friends call me Jim, by the way.”
Jensen took the extended hand and shook it warmly. “What’s on your mind, Jim?”
Jim turned towards the doors again, and Jensen didn’t need to know what, or rather who he was looking at. “Don’t you think it’s weird for a homeless kid to be hanging around here in this neighborhood, in the same spot, day in and day out for a whole month?”
“He’s got to be freezing his ass out there.”
Jensen huffed and finally took a look as well. Tristan was leaning against a far wall, smoking a cigarette. Who knew where he got it from.
“A month, you say?”
“Yep,” Jim turned to look at Jensen. “About the same time you’ve been here, actually.”
Jensen looked away, swallowed.
“I tried offering him something to eat in exchange for him moving along,” Jim explained. “He takes the food but comes back after a while anyway. Hides when he sees cops approaching, but other than that, nothing seems to shake him from that spot. He just stands there, staring up at the Vanguard like nobody’s business.”
Jensen swallowed again. “Did you try asking him what he wants?”
“A couple times, but he doesn’t say much. Actually I’ve never heard a word out of that kid’s mouth. He isn’t begging, which is why I don’t want to call the services on him. He just… stands there. Quietly.”
“Do you know what he wants, Mr. Ackles?”
Jensen turned to look at Beaver then, understanding that knowing (but not judging) look in the old man’s eyes. He sure did observe and understand more than he let on. Too bad he wasn’t around two years ago.
Jim waited expectantly for a reply and Jensen sighed. He should have been asking this question himself. Instead he’d been running away from it all month. Jensen drank the last of the delicious coffee, crushed the cup and let it sail to the nearest waste basket. He pulled his jacket lapels together and turned to Beaver.
“I guess it’s time we found out. Thanks Jim.” He added after a second, “for the coffee.”
Jensen stepped out of the Vanguard, and crossed the street in long strides, moving determinedly towards Tristan who, at first, wasn’t sure what was happening. Then he straightened up, suddenly realizing that Jensen was heading straight for him. His eyes went wide, his lips falling open, breath rushing out of his mouth in short, rapid bursts.
Jensen stopped five feet away from Tristan for two reasons. One, he stank. And two, because he was really disgustingly filthy and stank. Jensen put his hands in his jacket pockets and shrugged.
“Okay, I’m here. What do you want?”
Jensen saw his Adam’s apple bob nervously. But Tristan didn’t respond, just kept staring with his unreadable eyes. Hazel. Dull and spark-less, and tending towards a dark grey.
“What? Did you forget something at my place and want it back?”
“You know I could call the cops and still turn you in. The statute of limitations isn’t over yet.”
Tristan still held his tongue and Jensen was starting to lose patience. That face, those eyes, those damned reminders of how foolish Jensen had been, how foolish and how smitten…
Jensen charged him, shoving Tristan into the wall with a loud crash, almost strangling him in his insane rage that made him forget everything else including the stench.
“Why are you here, huh? What do you fucking want from me?”
Jensen grunted and let him go, sending his gaunt frame crashing back into the wall one more time. Tristan didn’t even react to the pain he must have surely felt. Jensen retreated, started to pace back and forth, staring back into Tristan’s listless eyes all the time.
It really was Tristan. He came back.
Seconds or maybe hours ticked away. Jensen stopped pacing and put his fists on his hips, shaking his head angrily. He couldn’t believe he was doing this again.
“You eaten yet?”
It was Tristan’s turn to look shocked, for once an element of life returning to his eyes. Slowly, he shook his head. Jensen dug his hands back in his pockets, it was really cold out here, and Tristan was nowhere near dressed for it. Jensen started to cross the street, turning back to Tristan briefly.
“Comin’ or what?”
A decade passed, it seemed, before Tristan decided to move. Quietly, he followed the artist across the street, staying five feet away from him at all times. His boots squeaked as he walked, and he took rapid, uncertain steps, stopping every now and then to look up at Jensen, as if expecting the other man to change his mind any second.
Beaver, who’d been watching from the inside, quickly fell back into his role of a concierge. When Jensen walked in, he didn’t comment, just nodded cordially. When Tristan followed, walking with trepidation towards the elevators where Jensen stood waiting, Beaver nodded at him too and just as warmly. Jensen watched as Tristan practically bowed in response, hugging himself self-consciously as his loud shoes (duct-taped to keep from falling apart) echoed through the Vanguard’s immaculate lobby.
Jensen kept shaking his head all the way up to the eighteenth floor, wishing he’d made Tristan take the stairs instead. He told himself it was the stench that kept triggering his gag reflex, nothing else.
Upstairs, Jensen opened the door and let Tristan in first, silently vowing never to turn his back to this man again. Tristan looked around, taking in everything as quietly as he’d done everything else. Jensen had done up the place almost the same as it was before with the exception of a few color palette changes, an upgraded entertainment center with the latest bug-sized Bose speakers, and a new Wii.
Of course with Tristan here, standing in the middle of his living room, Jensen immediately regretted the excessive use of off-white in his new scheme. He cleared his throat. “Maybe you should take off your coat and shoes at the door.”
It wasn’t a question. Tristan blinked but readily complied. He walked back out to the foyer and, very carefully, pulled off his ratty boots, afraid they might come apart in his hands if he used too much force. Then he took off that atrocious red parka, and the sight made Jensen’s heart fall to his guts.
The baggy, ripped jeans were the same pair Tristan used to wear while modeling for Jensen. They had seemed so fragile back then, Jensen was surprised to see they’d survived, somewhat, despite Tristan’s radical lifestyle. He had lost weight, and given his unusual height, looked even more wiry and ganglier than before.
And he still stank. Jensen’s nose twitched. “You wanna go wash up?”
Tristan had been so busy folding his parka and putting it oh-so cautiously beside his precious boots that the words startled him a bit. He stood up again, unsure of what to do with his hands hanging uselessly by his sides, swallowed and uttered his first words to Jensen.
“Can we eat first?”
Jensen let the familiar treble of Tristan’s voice seep into him. Ackles, you big stupid sucker.
Ten minutes later, Jensen had fixed him some tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, which Tristan downed with such velocity it made Jensen afraid he was going to get sick all over his brand new kitchen counter. But Tristan seemed fine. He clearly hadn’t eaten this well in a while. So completely engrossed was he with his plate that he didn’t notice Jensen watching him intently all that time.
When the food was gone, every last drop and crumb of it, Tristan wiped at his lips with the back of his filthy hand, and Jensen tried not to grimace. He’d made Tristan wash his hands in the kitchen sink but hadn’t managed to do a good job, and Jensen hadn’t pushed.
"Do you want anything else?"
“Do you still smoke?”
Jensen shook his head in full view of his guest. Already the punk was making himself comfortable and demanding stuff, like it was all hunky dory between two long lost friends. Still, he pulled out his pack of Marlboros and offered Tristan one. They both lit up and Jensen got up to go to the balcony, gesturing at Tristan to follow. Tristan followed quietly, staying a few feet away from Jensen again.
A couple minutes of peace and quiet followed, both men lost in their own thoughts. Jensen had finally adjusted (or resigned) his olfactory system to the putrid reek. He wondered what was going on in Tristan's mind. The man kept looking down at the holed socks on his gargantuan feet, trying not to shiver too visibly. Jensen threw his cigarette away.
“Come on, Tristan, let’s go inside.”
“My name is Jared.”
Jensen halted. The homeless man swallowed and dragged at his cigarette one last time before stubbing it in an ash tray.
“Jared Tristan Padalecki.”
“The c-cops would have had an easier time tracking me down if they knew my real name. So, if you decide to turn me in, or… or if you have called them already...”
Jensen took one menacing step closer. “What makes you think I’d call the cops?”
Jared stammered. “I-It’s fine, I w-won’t fight it.”
Jensen ground his teeth and a couple seconds later, he turned away from Tris- Jared, and started to go back inside.
“I’m going to run a bath for you, Jared Tristan Pada-whatever. You stink.”
Jensen, 7th November 2009.
Jensen made Jared stand in one corner of his gigantic bathroom while he turned the water faucets on and upturned a whole bottle of cleansing foam into the bath tub. As they waited for the water to fill, Jensen screened Jared from head to toe.
“You should hit the shower first. You’re not lining my marble tub with your grime.”
Jared didn’t protest; simply started to take off his clothes right where he stood. If Jensen’s first instinct was to turn away, out of decency or whatever, he curbed it. Well-deserved retribution and shit. Funnily enough either Jared agreed, or he had no qualms being buck naked in front of Jensen.
He stripped out of his three pairs of socks first, followed by his flimsy brown sweater, one shirt and two ragged undershirts, and then he started to fold them reverently. He looked around for a good (or maybe safe) spot to place them and decided the nearest corner of the bathroom would do. Then he undid a knot of what looked like fifty-year old nylon cords used as a belt to keep his jeans up. Jensen watched, morbidly mesmerized, as a new patch of flesh was exposed little by little on Jared’s thin frame. He wondered who amongst that merry band of thieves got to keep the proceeds; sure as hell didn’t look like Jared got anything.
His ribs were starkly evident beneath the pale, almost bluish skin, the dark green of his veins lined his hands from the dirty fingernails all the way up to his bony shoulders. And once the jeans and the tattered boxers came off Jensen found the hip bones just as pronounced as the ribs. And his genitals, the shaft was dark and shriveled and yet… Jensen couldn’t take his eyes off it.
Calmly, completely oblivious (or maybe not) to the close scrutiny he was being subjected to, Jared stood with his head bowed, as he continued to fold his precious clothes. Jensen got up, walked over and tried to take the jeans from him.
“These could use a wash. Here, let me –”
But Jared didn’t let go. Their eyes met, and for the first time since Jared came into his apartment, Jensen saw something other than resignation in his eyes.
“Relax. You’ll get them back.”
Jared let go, reluctantly, and folded his arms, for the first time looking self-conscious, as if he’d only just realized how very naked he was. Jensen opened a glass cabinet to pull a spare toothbrush out, and placed it by the sink.
“Brush your teeth, a couple times at least. Then go hit the shower. I’ll be right back.”
Jared did as he was told, stepping into the shower stall when Jensen stepped out the bathroom to go to where his washer-dryer unit stood. Ten minutes later, he got back to find Jared still standing under the hot water, steam fogging up the glass from the inside. Jensen went to the balcony and lit up a cigarette to kill time. He let another ten minutes or so pass and came back in with the intention to turn off the bath tub faucets; then give Jared as much time as he needed. God knew how long it’d been since he’d had a decent wash.
He stepped through the door and halted. The shower was turned off, the stall door was open. And there was Jared, crouching inside the stall with a couple of sponges in his hand, scrubbing the floor.
Jensen couldn’t help but feel queasy with guilt. “Leave it. The cleaning guys will get it.”
Jared, who’d jumped violently at the sound of Jensen’s voice, now stood up on shaking legs and exited the stall but not before anxiously turning to look at the copious amounts of dirt still circling the drain.
“Get in here.” Jensen nodded towards the tub, and Jared complied, quietly, again. But he didn’t stay that way very long.
“Cold,” he grumbled, as he pulled his legs up to his chest, bony knees jutting out of the water.
Jensen glared at the back of Jared’s head as he turned the hot water faucet again and let it run. The kid obviously liked it boiling hot, or maybe that’s what it took to get rid of the chill settled deep in his bones after months (or more) of living on the streets of New York. Jensen didn’t want to feel too sympathetic. Instead he picked up his bottle of shampoo and handed it over roughly.
“Wash your hair first,” he said curtly, then walked over to his mirror cabinet and pulled a couple of razors and shaving cream out.
“Then I want you to shave the rest of your body, everything, face to toes.”
Jared looked up at him in question.
“You still owe me a painting.”
Jared didn’t look away.
“And I want you nude this time.”
“Don’t worry, I am going to pay you. Fifty dollars an hour, I think that’s more than fair, don’t you?”
He waited for signs of distress or some token of protest, hoped even. None came.
“So, do we have a deal, or what?”
Jared looked down at the bottle of shampoo in his hands and nodded subtly.
“Awesome. Come on out whenever you’re ready. You know where the studio is.”
Jensen started to close the door behind him gently, but decided against it. Maybe it was just his imagination playing tricks on his ears but he could swear he heard whispered words he didn’t quite believe, or maybe he didn’t want to.
“It’s the least I can do.”
Jensen went to his balcony and lit up another cigarette, psyched and teeming with excessive (nervous) energy. He couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe himself.
Here they were, back to where and how it all started. Jensen couldn’t believe he was actually harboring a fugitive under the same roof he’d committed (or at least helped commit) a heinous crime under, against Jensen himself.
“What are you doing, you stupid fool?!?”
He headed for the studio and changed into his work-shirt, the gray one splattered with paint. Pulled out a fresh canvas and found his box of charcoals, resolutely forcing himself to stop wondering about his (and Jared’s) motives. For now, he was going to milk this curious happenstance for all it was worth and get the damn painting done once and for all… the painting that had his muse blocked for two and a half years.
There was a short knock on the door and Jensen looked up, at Tristan. With his face clean-shaven and that exquisite Slavic jawline visible at last, he seemed more the boy that Jensen remembered, only older but not by much. Tristan… Jared wore a white bath robe and stood by the door, hugging himself. Jensen gestured with an index finger, and Jared stepped in.
“You remember what to do.”
“You mean… the same spot?”
Jared walked to the full length floor-to-ceiling glass windows showcasing the gorgeous Manhattan skyline at twilight. The floor was darker this time, shinier on account of being new. Jensen couldn’t help but gasp silently when Jared dropped the robe, his back turned towards Jensen. The pale alabaster of his endless expanse of skin, in stark and aesthetically pleasing contrast to the dark floor, still managed to capture his fascination like nothing else had in a very long time.
“Lie down,” he ordered and Jared complied. Jensen picked up and removed the discarded robe from his frame of view. He then lowered himself to his knees beside Jared and raised a hand towards his face.
Jared flinched, hard.
“Relax.” Jensen rasped, thinking to himself how twistedly rich this was. He’s the one afraid of ME.
He pushed the still dripping strands of hair back from Jared’s face, tucking a few behind his ears, smoothing some others back over the top of his head. Jared’s eyes followed every movement of his hands suspiciously, but remained largely expressionless. They were calmer tonight, resigned, dark with emotions incomprehensible to Jensen. They irked the fucking hell out of him.
Calmly enough himself, he walked back to his easel and picked up the charcoal. But the first few strokes trembled as did his hands. And it dawned on him – maybe it wasn’t this city or this apartment he needed to come back to. Maybe it was Jared that he needed to come back to paint.
Then again, maybe this was all just one big coincidence and he was just over-thinking it.
The next time he looked up at Jared, it was just like the very first time Tristan had posed for him. As if nothing had changed. No tragedy, no betrayal, no heartbreak had ever happened in this house. And it was all just a dream, a creepy hallucination, all in Jensen’s mind. This was the real deal; time rewound by twenty nine months. This was how it was always supposed to be.
For a second, Jensen even actually believed it.
Part Two >>