Jensen was gone when he woke up, bright light slanting in from the windows. Jared felt sick first, then sad, remembering everything. Why had he said no? Jensen would never make himself that vulnerable again, not while he was sober.
Jensen came out of the bathroom a minute later, hair damp and spiky, a towel around his middle. "Hi," he said, sounding wary but not unhappy.
That was at least a little promising, since Jensen would probably have shown real displeasure by setting the bed on fire while Jared was still sleeping. "Hi," Jared said. "All right, look. I could pretend I don't remember last night, but I do. And so do you, I bet. And if I have to keep working with you every day and not touching you, it'll kill me for sure."
"Well," Jensen said, sitting down on the other bed, "I remember it, all right. You made me a promise about this morning, right? And now that you're sober, my expectations are going to be a lot higher, which you might want to keep in mind. We've got two hours before practice. Now go brush your teeth."
"Jesus," Jared said, rolling out of bed, head protesting as he sat up. "You're not freaking out, I guess."
"We put it out there last night," Jensen said, practically enough, "so now we live with it. I have to work with you, which is tragic, but I'll probably wish I were dead a little bit less if I'm at least getting laid by you too. Now hurry up, will you?"
Jared brushed his teeth in about ten seconds, tried to control his hair, and came back to find Jensen naked on the bed they'd been sleeping in. Jared wanted to take a minute to appreciate that, how Jensen was sturdy and had great, well-muscled arms and was starting to carry just a little bit of extra weight around his belly, which was awfully cute, but Jensen didn't let him linger. "You were pretty sappy last night, with all that cuddling," he said, smirking. "Are you all handsy when you're not drunk, too? You gonna pet me?"
Jared was on him a second later, pinning him easily as Jensen squirmed. He grabbed Jensen's wrists, hard, and held them down against the pillows above their heads. "You know what?" he murmured against Jensen's mouth, and bit his lower lip. Jensen yelped. "You're not in charge here."
"Fuck you," Jensen said, wriggling like he was trying to get free. Jared held him where he was.
"You know that's not happening," Jared said, finding a spot under Jensen's ear that, when he nuzzled it, made Jensen gasp like he had last night.
"You know I have to crouch down for six hours today," Jensen said. "Don't even try - oh -" Jared was walking his fingers up Jensen's inner thigh, stroking up between his legs, wanting to ease a couple of fingers inside him, but said, "You're right. We better save that for an off day, huh?"
"Pretty sure of yourself," Jensen said, and Jared kissed him. Jensen kissed back hard, like he wanted to pull Jared down closer against him, though Jared was still holding his hands.
"I should fuck you," Jared said quietly, his fingers still moving there, where Jensen was so vulnerable, all tight and warm. Jared could imagine opening him up, slow, Jensen glaring as Jared got him ready. "Make you feel it all during practice, not to mention our game. You think everybody would know?" Jensen huffed. Jared ground down against him instead, seeing how it felt, and they both groaned at the friction of it, their dicks coming together just right. "Fuck," Jensen breathed. "Come on, you bastard," and Jared did it again, kept going, finding the right rhythm. Jensen rubbed up against him, Jared still holding his wrists with one hand so that he couldn't set the pace, couldn't touch, just had to take it. "Let me go," he said, and Jared pulled back a little and said, "Say please."
Jensen snarled, thrashed so hard that he surprised Jared, who almost let him go, but then grabbed him tighter. "You need somebody to teach you manners, all right," Jared said, a little out of breath. "You want me to finish up on my own here? Come on your face?"
"Fuck you," Jensen spat. "Don't fucking talk to me like that -"
"You love it," Jared said. "I bet you'd do anything I told you to right now. Say anything I wanted." Jensen moaned, thrust up, trying to get some friction. Jared pulled back again. "You gonna be nice?"
Jensen hesitated for a second more, then looked up at Jared through his lashes. "Yeah," he whispered. "Please."
Jared almost came on his face anyway, just from that, but gritted his teeth and held on. Then he let Jensen's wrists go, and Jensen put his arms around Jared's shoulders, getting him down closer, most of his weight on Jensen. Jared thrust up against him again, his dick right up between Jensen's thighs, right where he wanted to be. "Next time I'm going to be in you, right here," he said, and Jensen moaned again and came, riding it out as Jared kept going. He watched, amazed, as Jensen turned his face to the side, making soft little noises through it, maybe so none of their teammates in adjoining rooms would hear. Seeing him that unguarded was too much, and Jared came all over him, streaking his belly and thighs with white. Jensen's hands moved weakly against Jared's shoulders, maybe to push him off or to pull him even closer.
That day, Kripke rounded them up and yelled for ten minutes or so about them coming to a game hung over, even though they'd all technically gotten in before curfew. He seemed to decide eventually, though, that making them deal with practice in their condition was punishment enough. They ran a lot of laps that day.
After an hour or so, their teammates started to look at each other in obvious confusion. After two hours, the confusion began to turn into suspicion. By the second inning of their actual game, Kripke pulled Jared aside.
"Look," he said, "I don't know what you did." He held up his hand when Jared started to answer. "I don't really want to know. I just want to know if you can keep doing it."
Jensen, not at all surprisingly, was usually a real bear after a hangover. But today, when Medina had thrown to him during practice, his only commentary had been, "Good. Keep it up." Jared was pretty sure he'd heard Jensen say, "Great job," in Brock's direction at one point, without noticeable sarcasm. Sure, it wasn't exactly effusive praise, but he hadn't ranted or complained much or even insulted anyone. The suspicion was more than understandable.
"Yeah," Jared said. "I'd be happy to."
So he did. Over the next two weeks, Jensen caught a series of good games, got in no physical fights with anyone, and threw only a couple of minor temper tantrums, weak efforts that were nowhere close to his usual standards. To the rest of the team, this seemed downright mellow. Overall, Jared suspected that he was enjoying himself a little bit more. His hitting even improved slightly, and Jared thought it was simply because he wasn't tense enough to swing at everything that came his way.
Jensen was vitriolic as ever, but Jared was starting to suspect that it was just a reflex with him, as natural as breathing. Jared had also noticed that his hatred was directed to all individuals and groups so equally that it was almost tough to be offended. For himself, he'd developed the ability to tune Jensen out almost entirely when he started ranting about something nonsensical, ignoring the worst things that came out of Jensen's mouth and arguing with or teasing him about the rest. Whenever he mentioned something like his hatred of opposing pitchers who "prayed or did some voodoo or something before every pitch" or how the entire city of Seattle should be burned down, Jared thought hard about other things. Of course, this meant he only heard about a quarter of what Jensen said, but it had improved their relationship a lot.
During the off season, the ballclub had built an awful bar next to the park. It was easy for herds of drunk fans to stumble there after the games let out and keep drinking to the point of belligerence or oblivion. One of the local magazines had run a scathing review that mentioned that the only drink specials were served in plastic cups and that the place should be avoided by fans of sports, bars, or watching sports in bars. Someone, probably Jensen, had cut this review out and tacked it up on a bulletin in their clubhouse with a note reading, "Only the best for the Cougars." Jensen had also mentioned several times, without anyone asking, that he would rather have his fingernails ripped out than go anywhere near the place. That was okay with Jared, since thinking about Jensen interacting with the fans was enough to make him want to cry. Jared went there once, though, with some of the other guys. It was after he'd pitched his first complete game, giving up only two runs and getting the win easily.
Jared was good at press conferences, charming the reporters and making them laugh while hitting the right self-deprecating note when it seemed appropriate. He made sure to mention during this one that a lot of the credit went to Jensen, who'd called a good game and grabbed Jared's few wild pitches before they'd had a chance to cause any trouble. Jensen scowled a little later, but Jared could tell he was pleased.
Brock and Valdez and Darrish appeared after the game to drag him off for a couple of beers. "I'm not up to getting swarmed by wasted fans right now," he said, and Darrish said, "Oh, sure you are. When did you become the cautious one? Is Ackles rubbing off on you?"
There was some snickering. Jensen scowled more but said, "They're right. You should go. Enjoy getting slobbered on."
"You want to come?" Jared said, and Jensen gave him such a vile look that he had to laugh. "All right, if you say so."
"Come on, Padalecki," Valdez said, and Jared added, "Don't wait up," cheerfully, to Jensen, who rolled his eyes.
So they ended up at the tacky Cougars bar, although Jared protested a little, and he had to admit that he appreciated the cheer that went up as soon as they walked in the door. They ended up holding court at a table in the back, flirting with all the girls who bought them drinks or asked for autographs, and Jared shuddered when he thought about how badly he would have disgraced himself if he'd been here a few years ago.
In that atmosphere, it was easy to drink more than he'd planned on, and it caught up with him fast. He noticed this when he realized that they were gossiping about Jensen; also, that everyone was staring at him. "Sorry?" he said, and Darrish said again, "I can't believe you haven't killed him yet."
"Yeah," said Valdez, "considering how much time you two spend together. How come you're always rooming together?"
"And you're like his shadow in the dugout," Brock said. "What's that about? Are you a masochist or something?"
Jared laughed, feeling pleasantly blurry. "Well, to tell you the truth," - he was vaguely aware that this statement almost never led to anything good, but he was feeling the post-win rush and didn't care - "it's kind of part of my contract."
Brock started to laugh too. "Wait, really? They needed someone to, what, be his nanny?"
"No, man," said Jared. "More to, you know, keep him under control. Make him act right."
Now everyone was laughing. "Maybe you're not a masochist," said Darrish. "Maybe it's the other way around." He made a whip-cracking motion. "He's been pretty under control lately. Are you spanking him?"
"Shut up," Jared said, trying to ignore the idea that he might have just said something pretty stupid. "It's not like that."
"Whatever it's like, I'm pretty sure it's hilarious," Valdez said.
"Oh, leave the man alone," Brock said. "He's blushing."
They dropped it, mercifully, and Jared didn't think much more about it until he got back to their room. Jensen had, as instructed, not waited up and was curled up asleep under the blankets. Jared got into the other bed and looked over at Jensen for a while, the little of him that wasn't under the covers, one arm and the side of his face. Jared felt a stirring of guilt, pushed it away, and went to sleep.
By the time the All-Star break came around Jared was starting to notice something that genuinely unsettled him: he wanted to make Jensen happy. He was disgusted with himself for this, but he felt helpless before it. Even though his demeanor had improved marginally, Jensen still spent a lot of his game time scowling and looking intimidating, sometimes with that fake, sarcastic smile when he was chewing somebody out or arguing with his teammates. Jared sort of wanted to see a real smile out of him, and even though he didn't usually spend a lot of time worrying over much of anything, he had to do some soul-searching over exactly how gay that made him.
By the end of July, Jared had noticed how much the ridiculous, impractical white-and-gold uniforms brought out Jensen's freckles, especially when he was a little tan. Also, that he had fluffy duckling hair whenever he took off his mask and cap.
By the end of July, Jared was in trouble.