After the season ended, Jared went home for a while to visit his family, just to clear his head. It was good to be there, to see his parents and everyone else who was happy and excited for him. On some level, he knew that his parents had already forgiven him for what he'd done, but that was easier to accept now. He watched all the other teams finish out their seasons on TV, and it was a little sad not to be out there, but it wasn't the miserable experience of the past five Octobers. This time he thought, it's all right. Maybe I'll get another chance, and more chances after that. He hoped so, anyway.
And as it got cooler and the end of October came on, he knew it was time to go back.
He showed up on Jensen's doorstep on the first night of the NLDS playoffs. Jensen didn't look too surprised or unhappy to see him, or maybe he was just pleased with the six-pack of Newcastle that Jared offered as he opened the door. "Hi," Jared said. "Want a beer? You going to watch the game?"
"Sure," Jensen said, smiling a little. "You went for the good stuff, I see."
"It's a bribe," Jared said. "I was hoping you'd let me sleep over."
Jensen paused for a moment, and Jared thought maybe this hadn't been the best way to go about things. But then he shrugged and stepped aside so Jared could come in, saying, "I know it must be tough on you, not having me around all the time now. Did you have to sleep with a night light?"
"Don't flatter yourself," Jared said, too relieved to come up with anything good. "You think the Rockies will do our division proud tonight?"
"I think they'll get swept out," Jensen said. "You know that team is full of punks who think they..." And then he stopped, because Jared kissed him.
Jared ended up holing up at Jensen's place for most of the off-season. It made sense, really, since Jared had an apartment that, although decent, still felt a little cold and impersonal, maybe just because he hadn't done much to it yet, while Jensen had a nice house. This was important, because apparently Jensen went into hiding every winter and hibernated for at least three months. He explained this to Jared when it first started to get cold, but Jared hadn't known he meant it quite so literally. The first time he got into Jensen's bed, though, he sort of understood. It was dangerously comfortable, and Jensen liked to keep his bedroom cold so that he could sleep under about 40 different blankets, including a giant down comforter. No wonder he'd spent so much time on the road complaining about hotel bedding.
Actually, the very first time Jared got into Jensen's bed, he didn't much notice the bedding until later. They were finally getting a chance to try out everything they couldn't do during the regular season, and that was more than enough to occupy his attention. Jensen was as mouthy and challenging in bed as he'd been throughout the season, making Jared work for everything. But when he finally fingered Jensen open, too impatient to go slow or prep him quite as much as he needed, and got his dick into Jensen's ass, Jensen just melted underneath him. His hands fluttered against Jared's back, eyes wide and started and almost helpless. He said, "Oh," breathlessly, sounding surprised, and Jared moved deeper into him, more turned on than he'd ever been in his life by reducing Jensen to that state, putting that expression on his face. Then Jensen, making an obvious effort to recover, sneered a little and said, "Is that all you've got?"
Just for that, Jared drew things out longer than he'd planned to, made Jensen do a lot of begging. But much later, falling asleep in the dark with Jensen dozing next to him, he said out loud, quietly, "I'm still in charge here, right?" Jensen didn't say anything, but Jared saw his mouth twist into a little smirk, as pleased and self-satisfied as could be.
Jensen hadn't been joking about being lazy, apparently. He did the basic work to stay in shape, but not much beyond that. One day during the first week they spent together at Jensen's place, Jared left him passed out in his bedroom upstairs, unable for the moment to deal with Jensen's angry crankiness when Jared tried to wake him up. The next time Jared came upstairs, Jensen was awake, lying on his stomach on the bed and eating a Pop-Tart. "Hi," Jared said. Jensen looked at him with distrust. "Hi," he said, as Jared picked up the Pop-Tart box. "Don't touch the brown sugar. I like those ones."
"Uh huh," Jared said, inspecting the contents. "Have you already eaten, like, four of these today?" Jensen made a noncommittal noise.
Another morning, later, as fall was easing into winter, he tried to wake Jensen up as usual, and couldn't, also as usual. Jensen was curled under the down comforter and another white blanket, this one crocheted and raggedy, that his mom had made him a long time ago. He was very much committed to staying asleep, enough so that Jared had to shake him and then wrestle with him even to get him to open his eyes and glare.
"It's not normal to sleep this much," Jared said. "Come on, I need to run some errands. Come with me."
"Get off me," Jensen said from under the blankets. "Don't even touch me."
Jared sighed. "You're missing the best part of the day," he said. Jensen snarled and punched him, and not like he was joking around. "That's gonna bruise, you fucker," Jared said, and Jensen said, "Good. Leave me alone."
"The more things change," Jared muttered, and went out and ran his errands for an hour or so. When he got back, stomping snow off his boots, the house was quiet and Jensen was still in bed, asleep and warm. Jared sighed and climbed in with him. Jensen, waking suddenly, gasped with outrage at Jared's cold clothes and skin pressed against him. "FUCK," he said, "don't get snow on me. I hate you," but Jared draped an arm over him, warming up already. Jensen, looking resigned, let Jared pull him in close, and even settled his head against Jared's chest.
"I bet you'd sleep fifteen hours a day if I let you," Jared said. "How did you ever wake up for day games?"
"My schedule is all different during the off-season," Jensen said. "Now I'm hungry," he added sadly. "Did you buy food?"
Jared smiled. "I did," he said. "Do you still want ice cream? It's melting on the kitchen counter."
"Yes," Jensen said. "Why is it melting? Go put it away. Your shirt is still cold." But he didn't move to get away, or push Jared off.
Some days, even after Jensen had slept well into the afternoon, Jared would find him napping later. After a while, instead of complaining about it, he started finding exciting ways to wake Jensen up. Splashing water on him was obvious but produced a furious-wet-cat effect that Jared never got tired of. One day after this treatment, Jensen sighed and glared and announced, "I want waffles."
"First of all, it's two in the afternoon," Jared said, "and we have waffles in the freezer."
Jensen rolled his eyes. "I want real waffles," he said, and put his head back under the blankets.
"Do you have a waffle iron?" Jared asked, which Jensen seemed not to find worthy of a response. Jared knew perfectly well he didn't have a waffle iron. He patted the lump under the blankets that was probably Jensen's shoulder. "Come on, get up," he said. Then he realized that he was considering, with some resentment, where the best place would be to find a waffle iron on a Sunday afternoon.
"Why," he wondered out loud, "am I treating you like some girl that I knocked up? At the beginning of the season, I thought your problem was that you'd been spoiled for too long by too many people, and here I am thinking about making you breakfast. Even though it's going to get dark out soon."
"It's because you love me," said Jensen, a little muffled but coherent enough. He sounded smug about it.
Jared felt a pang that he tried to ignore by focusing on how obnoxious Jensen was in every way. That was just as true now as it had been on the day they'd met. If he'd gotten Jensen under control the way he was supposed to, Jensen would probably be making his own breakfast right now, or maybe even in the morning like a civilized person.
They tried to avoid talking about what would happen next season, since it was much too early to tell, but they seemed to have entered some new understanding without exactly meaning to: they were together now, partners, a team. Jared hoped they'd both be back next year, but he knew that would hold true even if they weren't.
"Yeah," he said thoughtfully, quietly, almost to himself. "Yeah, maybe," and Jensen sighed loudly and said, "Don't say anything sappy. I feel like you've been wanting to say something sappy about next season. I don't want to hear it."
"Next season," Jared said, "is going to work out just fine."
Jensen sat up, raising his eyebrows. "Yeah? Do you have some insider information about that?"
"Not at all," Jared said. "But I'm right about this one. Trust me."
Jensen smiled his real smile and said, "I do," and Jared kissed him.
"...never mind all that now. This other stuff is what we'll want to hold on to, with winter coming along. Never mind the monuments."
-Roger Angell, "One for the Good Guys"