Author: Regala Electra
Pairing: Jared/Jensen, Jared/Other
Word Count: 5,644
Summary: Jared Padalecki, rising star oncologist meets an absolute misanthrope when arrested at a conference. Too bad it's his future colleague, one of the most eccentric and talented doctors in the country. And his future best friend.
Author's Notes: One from the vaults. lThis is an unfinished work in progress. It will not be completed. Backstory to a monkey wrench of miscommunication, a J2 House AU where Jensen is House and Jared is Wilson. The overall series name is Chasing Zebras.
Jared does not hate Free Bird.
He would, at least, like the record to show that. It’s just that around the seventh or eighth replay of Free Bird on the busted jukebox that he couldn’t take it any more and he had to voice his disproval before he lost his ever-loving mind.
Fine he may have lost his mind around the fourth time but who’s counting?
The bar brawl had been absolute insanity. And he’d been right in the middle of it. He threw the first punch after all.
So maybe he deserved getting tossed in jail but c’mon, he would pay for the damages, all of them. He’s almost done paying off all his student loans and he’s a doctor for Christ’s sake. He’s good for it.
Nothing doing. He’s left to stew in the drunk tank.
Until one of the doctors from the medical conference decides to bail him out. A doctor Jared doesn’t know or recognize but hey, at least he’s pretty sure he didn’t punch the guy during the brawl.
“I’m Jensen,” the guy says to him, after Jared’s let out of the cell by a bleary-eyed policeman eyeing the wall-clock at the end of the hall like he’s willing it to go faster.
“Oh I know, I vouched for you as a respectable member of society with my wallet. After all, we’re doctors,” Jensen says, addressing the cop with the kind of smile that might just get Jensen locked up. “ The only time we kill people is when they don’t have insurance.”
“Hilarious,” the cop grunts. “Get out of here.”
Barely out of earshot, Jensen loudly says, “You see how they treat cripples these days?”
He leans heavily on a cane that has a string of Mardi Gras beads wrapped around the handle. Jared really doesn’t what to know the story about how he got those beads. “You owe me.”
“I’d buy you a drink, but seeing as the only bar I know around here kind of doesn’t want my service—”
“That is a problem. Fortunately I know the solution. There are liquor stores where everyone’s money is good and I believe there are no open container laws. I drink Scotch,” he adds, shoving a hand in the pocket of his sports jacket. He casually pops a large white pill in his mouth, swallowing it dry.
“Great. Just point me to your favorite brand and I’ll get it for you.” It’s such a ridiculous bargain that Jared doesn’t quite believe this is happening. Which is why he can’t help from asking, “And why did you bail me out?”
“This conference is boring. Doctors are boring. You’re wearing a plaid pink shirt and a pair of jeans you’ve probably had since freshmen year of college and have stupid hair. You’re interesting.”
“Because of my clothes?” Jared feels too insulted to think that this Jensen guy is hitting on him. Distain drips from every syllable in Jensen’s voice.
Also Jared’s hair is not stupid, it’s just that he forgot his hairdryer and the hotel hairdryer’s settings were different from what he’s normally accustomed to so he had troubling blow-drying.
Already Jared realizes it would be a bad idea to tell Jensen that.
One thing Jared does pride himself on being is something of a fast learner.
“You single-handedly cost a bar thousands of dollars. And stopped the endless Free Bird encores. I like that song but not that much.” Jensen pauses and for a moment it feels like Jared’s being measured or something, way Jensen is staring at him is that intense. “Your field, it’s not Pediatrics, is it?”
“Oncology. I finished my fellowship,” Jared can’t help adding even though Jensen is barely listening as a group of scantily clad girls on the way to the French Quarter pass by them, “and I accepted a position at Princeton-Plainsboro.”
Jensen snorts. “Crappy hospital.”
“It has one of the greatest oncology departments in the Northeast!”
Not to mention Jared thinks he might be able to head the department at Princeton-Plainsboro one day whereas that wasn’t happening at M.D. Anderson. Dr. Beaver won’t leave the department until he’s six feet under and hell, he’s probably going to rise from the dead and return to work as a zombie.
Sometimes Jared thinks too much about potential zombie uprisings.
Jensen’s stride slows down as he makes stiff, jerky movements towards the general direction of the hotel. They’re not that far away and with Jensen’s general “fuck off” demeanor, it would probably be a bad idea to suggest calling a cab. Jared notes he’s also a little bowlegged, making Jared wonder at how tall Jensen would be if he stood up straight. Obviously shorter than Jared but there aren’t that many who are taller than him and Jared swears half of them are his relatives.
“So you read a brochure about the wonders of Princeton-Plainsboro. Was it the thrill of New Jersey that turned your head? Does it get you hot that the Dean of Medicine eats young divorced doctors for breakfast?”
“I’m not—why do you think I’m divorced?”
“Separated,” Jensen says decisively. “You wouldn’t ask me why I thought that if you were still happily married. No ring, but you keep touching your left hand. The clothes either mean you’re extremely gay, work with children, or your wife didn’t pack your suitcase.”
Jensen turns surprisingly quick for a guy with a very apparent leg problem, something to do with his thigh, Jared realizes, as he grabs it when he comes to a dead stop. Jensen’s creating a sharper pain sensation to mitigate the underlying condition. Brutal but effective.
Just like Jensen’s words.
“No one who cared about you would ever let you out in public wearing that shirt. Unless it put a smile on some adorable apple-cheeked sick kid because the worst dressers I’ve ever seen are the depraved needy doctors who smugly go into Pediatrics to save the world one cutesy lisping bed-wetter at a time. I hate kids.”
Wow. So Jensen is auditioning for his future destiny of being the old man yelling at kids to get off his damn lawn. Instead of commenting on his incredible issues with children, Jared briskly says, “So yeah, I’m separated. I’m moving to New Jersey. Dr. Ferris seems tough but fair. Anything else you hate about me?”
“You’re too tall,” Jensen twists his mouth as though he’s still working on the finishing touches to a giant life-sized Jared puzzle and he’s three sky pieces away from being complete. “You didn’t act out at the bar due to your depression over the end of your marriage. That would be boring and I hate boring.”
“No.” The entire conference has actually allowed Jared be too busy, either getting schmoozed or cramming in new information and treatments available to his patients, to obsess over the end of his marriage. “I believe there’s a time and place for Free Bird. That was not the time.”
“You grew up there.”
“Yeah, I did. Born and raised.”
“Pointless saying. Of course you were raised there if a stranger can figure out from your accent your exact birthplace. Although I am an extraordinary individual.” Oddly, that barely sounds like Jensen’s bragging, merely stating a fact. “Can you guess where I’m from?”
Since there’s no Soviet Nation of Assholes, Jared’s at a loss for a moment before tossing out, “Texas.”
“Big state,” Jensen says, sounding like he agrees. The nod helps, too. “Born in Richardson.”
“You don’t have much of an accent.”
“I took acting classes in college. Someone handed me the wrong diploma and I decided to act like a doctor. Went to med school with the wrong transcript but as long as you don’t molest your cadavers in public, you pass.”
“Right.,” Jared says, humoring him because he’s honestly curious how far Jensen can go and how sarcastic a human being can be without the sarcasm taking on a life of its own and detaching itself from the body and going around on a killer spree like The Blob or something.
“People are idiots so they let me play Operation on them. I’m still looking to remove the bread basket. It’s worth a thousand points.”
That’s not true but Jared lets it slide.
They’re rounding a corner and there’s been a method to the madness of this procession. Within an easy distance there’s the friendly neon lights of a liquor store that can be found anywhere, so familiar is the grimy setup.
“I’m great at Operation,” Jared confides to Jensen.
“It’s what made you want to become a doctor, isn’t it?”
“My brother’s a doctor too.” And beating Jeff at Operation did sort of inspire Jared when he was faced with the choice of going to school for engineering or medicine because Jared knew he was really good at it and he loved helping people. Maybe too much but if that’s his worst flaw, Jared doesn’t see it as that bad, compared to other vices.
“Ah, the younger, lesser son. Middle child too, right?”
“How, how do you know those things? You sure we’ve never met before?”
Wow that line is way too cliché but Jensen ignores it in favor of saying, “I know people. I hate people.”
“God. What kind of medicine do you practice?”
“The good kind,” he says, a little dismissively, implying oncology isn’t a worthy field of medical practice which is all kinds of insane.
“I’ll tell you when you’re all grown up, Jay.”
“It’s Jared,” he says impatiently. “And you can’t be much older than me.”
“It’s the beard isn’t it?”
“What? You don’t have a beard.”
“Been meaning to grow one. Make me look older.”
“You’re insane, aren’t you? You’re like a crazy person who decided on a whim to come to my rescue for some nefarious reason and now you’re going to drive me crazy just to feel a little less lonely in the world.”
“Well I could do that,” Jensen says, considering the potential to something clearly evil to Jared. “But that sounds like a lot of work. By the way, I know you’re not sober but that’s no excuse to say that a person can act on a whim with nefarious intent at the same time. I don’t have a master plan. At least, not one involving you unless you’re the heir to a porn fortune and can’t wait to give him all your riches.”
“Damn, I gave away my porn fortune to the last guy who bailed me out.”
That gets an actual laugh out of him. As they amble into the liquor store, he says “How about getting drunk and burning that awful shirt to commemorate the night you met your future colleague, Jensen Ackles?”
“Wait.” The expression come to a dead stop has never been more appropriate. Jared’s kind of standing still at the moment to make sure he’s not hallucinating. No swirling walls or psychedelic colors clouding his vision. Damn. “You’re Dr. Ackles? Head of Diagnostic Medicine at Princeton-Plainsboro? The Dr. Ackles?”
“Oh great. Unless you let me sign my autograph on your ass, I’m not interested in being praised for being one of the greatest doctors in the history of practicing medicine. The greatest doctor of all time is Rick Springfield.”
Jared blinks. “He was on actor on General Hospital.”
“And he’s a singing songwriting sensation. Your point?”
Jared’s point is that Jensen Ackles is an insane misanthrope with a vendetta against pink shirts but somehow Jared doesn’t think that Jensen will appreciate being called absolutely out of his mind again. And now that Jared knows he’s going to be working with him (albeit in different departments but there’s great potential for overlap when it comes to Dr. Ackles’s groundbreaking work in Diagnostic Medicine), Jared realizes it’s best to play along for the time being.
If Jensen, er, Dr. Ackles hates people this much, he’s sure to be sick of Jared within a very short timeframe. Pissing off one of the most talented geniuses in medicine could very well be a sure way to fuck over his career. Especially since Jensen does seem the type to love dicking a guy over.
“What’s Creole for rotgut?” Jensen asks, grinning at Jared over the collection of whisky, ryes, and scotches haphazardly strewn across the shelves. “Let’s see if we can break a few more laws before this damn conference is over.”
It does not surprise Jared that they do break several laws by the end of the conference. Mercifully they are not caught.
What does surprise Jared is when Dr. Ackles gives him his address after expressly insisting he is never welcome at his home and that he better not be grieving over the end of his marriage when he’s situated in Princeton.
“Cry about half of your paycheck going to your ex in private. And next time don’t be an idiot. Sign a damn pre-nup.”
Jared’s office is small and while he calls it homey, Jensen declares it’s perfect if they really want to mess with someone suffering from claustrophobia.
“Why would you want to do that to anyone?” Jared asks because he hasn’t spoken to Jensen since the medical conference and he’s almost forgotten that Jensen really hates people. A lot.
Except for apparently Jared since he’s delighting in encroaching on the small personal space that Jared’s been allotted in the hospital. Jensen’s sitting on Jared’s battered desk, rooting through one of Jared’s boxes, full of the few personal touches Jared thought to bring with him on his first day at work.
This is a very odd professional relationship.
Jensen had faithfully sent him spam emails, mostly regarding porn and penis enhancements, although there are a lot of Nigerian princes out there, needing help from an American to deal with a small cash inflow problem. Jared knew these were from Jensen since Jensen took the time to add, saw this and thought of you to every spam email.
Jared’s emails, regarding a few work-related inquiries—Jared was amazed at Jensen’s work at Columbia, the case where he figured out that the girl had Lupus, that one was going to be studied for years to come in med schools across the country—had never gotten any responses from Jensen. It was one of Jensen’s underlings who responded with a very rote answer directing him to review the article published in whichever medical journal, blah blah blah.
Still, Jared’s now officially working at Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital and already Jensen has sought him out to…terrify him with the thought of freaking out someone suffering with claustrophobia.
“Why stuff a cat in a box? Because it’s cool. The point of all experiments is to show that you can do something. Your imaginary moral code tells you that you should follow a false set of principles merely because society pressures you to desire to behave in a way that will lead others to think of you positively. Luckily some of us were born without belief in false constructs which is how we found out there are imaginary cats in a box that may or may not exist. Today we have the beginnings of a beautiful experiment. What happens if you put a nice guy in a small room and tell him it’s going to be his base of operations? When will he crack from the pressure? How will he act out when unable to decompress after dealing with dying people all day long?”
Oh fuck. Fuck. Jensen might be evil.
Still, Jared forces himself to play it cool. “I don’t think the hospital administrator has an evil master plan.”
“That’s because she had the slightly less evil face on when she’s on the prowl for nubile new hires.” Jensen nearly leers at him. “And you are a tasty prospect.”
“Well my ass did get me into med school.”
Jensen picks up a picture frame, forcibly hiding the birth of a smile. “She’s hot. This the lovely ex or the lovely future ex?”
“That’s my mother.”
“Oedipus Complex? Or are you just a good ole boy who loves his mama? Where’re your I heart Mom, tattoo? Tell me you have a tramp stamp. Best thing that’s come out of Generation Jailbait.”
“No tattoo. Does that bore you?”
“No tattoo yet. I already know you make bad decisions when drunk. And I know every bar within a fifty mile radius. Or a hundred miles. Give or take.”
“I look forward to making these bad decisions. But first I should try not to get fired on my first day. Um, so if you’ll…”
“Oh this wasn’t a social call,” Jensen says, taking a prescription pad out of his battered sports jacket. “Vicodin.”
“You write me out a prescription for Vicodin,” Jensen says patiently as though explaining himself to a very slow dog,” I go downstairs and get my drugs. I take my drugs. I hate the world a fraction less than normal.”
“But I can’t—I don’t know your medical history!”
“Bum leg. Cane,” Jensen says, helpfully waving it in Jared’s face. “Now I’d write it out myself but that’s a no-no since I might be biased since I’m the one in pain. Crazy. You think they’d just give me the drugs since I work here but apparently they don’t want doctors running—or hobbling—around with drug addictions. Next thing, they’ll stop letting people take LSD to expand their minds. I can feel colors, you know.”
“Um, perhaps that’s a side effect of,” no Jared will not finish that sentence not with the pissed off look Jensen is shooting his way, “I mean, how long has your leg been hurting?”
“Long enough. You going to write the script or not?”
It’s a test. A test Jared is failing miserably and he wants to write the script because he does notice that Jensen’s skin is a little sweaty and his eyes are crinkled as he blocks out pain and he’s gritting his teeth after each sarcastic comment and he’s gripping the top of his thigh for dear life—
Jared’s not sure he’s ever written out a prescription as fast as this one.
“Here. It’s just, for a few days. I’d want to review your medical history first and um, since we’re colleagues, it might be awkward.”
“It’s not awkward,” Jensen says as he stands up, slowly, and the soft tone he uses causes Jared to stare at him, looking for where this suddenly streak of humility came from. But Jensen’s too fast for him. Everything closes down as Jensen snatches the script out of Jared’s outstretched hand. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re on par with the nurses. Not what I’d call a colleague. Head your own department and then maybe I’ll reconsider. Hungry?”
Jared foresees saying this a lot around Jensen.
“It’s eleven o’clock and McDonald’s has stopped serving artery clogging breakfast. Irresponsible to miss out on the most important meal for your first day of work.”
Jared does not say that he had to skip breakfast as the coffee he downed in the morning was an afterthought when he realized how late he was running. He has no idea how Jensen figured this out, maybe that his stomach growled while Jensen was requesting the Vicodin script.
“So I guess we’ll have to settled for bad cafeteria food. Don’t worry, it’s only as awful as every other hospital. My source, Hector the ex-con on kitchen sink duty swears this is a safe week as far as edibility goes. Gotta see your dying patients on a full stomach, don’t you?”
Somehow, perhaps using a Jedi mind trick, Jared does go with Jensen down to the cafeteria.
Which is just as horrible as Jensen had suggested and Jared winds up paying for Jensen’s lunch.
At the same time, Jared finds himself sort of okay with Jensen’s company.
He might be bitter and always say horrible things but there’s something so refreshing honest about Jensen that Jared’s never seen before. Man, Jared really hopes Jensen is one of a kind.
He also doesn’t notice how the staff, his fellow coworkers who for right now could be the Borg, for all he could identify them out of a lineup, stare at Jensen as he loudly continues on with his random outbursts often centering around his hatred of well, everything and anything. They’re looking at Jensen and Jared with particular interest. As though Jensen’s never… oh good God.
Jared thinks he and Jensen might be friends.
This fills him with a surprising amount of dread.
The dread finalizes as a heavy pit in his stomach or maybe it’s the questionable quality of the cafeteria food making him all queasy.
It could be that Samantha Ferris, the Dean of Medicine and his boss, glaring at him from across her desk, is the underlying cause for his current symptoms but the problem did happen prior to being called into her office. So either way he’s screwed.
“You’re…acquaintances with Dr. Ackles?” Ferris pauses to correct herself from saying friends, a word that is apparently completely incongruous with Jensen.
“We met at a medical conference.”
“Dr. Ackles isn’t known for having an interest in, well,” Ferris considers her words for a long moment but apparently changes her mind with a wave of her hand, a mental oh screw it moment as she bolsters on, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Ackles looking forward to working with a fellow doctor.”
That’s news to Jared.
In fact it almost goes over his head because she can’t mean that, no, he has to ask, “I’m sorry, are you, saying that Jen—um, Dr Ackles—spoke about me prior to my start date?”
“He asked me why I would hire someone unable to commit to working here until six months after hiring, so yes, he indicated interest in why I selected you.” Ferris has a dry voice that leaves no room for additional discussion. Not like Jared has much to say after that. “Now I told him you’re highly regarded in your field but that answer wasn’t acceptable to Jensen. He had some choice words on why you’d be an ideal candidate for me and I assume, since you have survived being around him, that you can figure out the implications he made about you.”
“Well, uh. I can imagine.” Jared’s flashing back to a commit Jensen made during their impromptu brunch about funbags and the tragedy of them being attached to evil hospital administrators.
“You must have made an impression on Ackles. He likes puzzles.” Leaning back in her chair, she bluntly asks, “Are you a puzzle, Padalecki?”
“I’ve never considered myself to be,” Jared admits.
“Fine then,” Ferris says, abruptly changing tactics, leaning towards him, hands folded on her desk, a power play tactic, “Do me a favor.”
“Yes. Ackles isn’t one to talk about himself. He’s extremely tough and talented.” She quickly adds, “Don’t tell him I called him talented.”
“I don’t think he’ll ever be in need of ego stroking.”
Ferris has a smoker’s laugh, even with a soft peal of laughter, it sounds coarse and a little bit shaky. “That’s right. He’s a troublemaker and doesn’t play well with others and lacks bedside manners. But he’s also the best damn doctor in this entire hospital.”
Jared hears the unspoken and he’s my responsibility.
“He likes mind games. His cases are some of the most difficult in the country and his success rate is shockingly high, which is why he’s completely impossible. And he has not, since I hired him over a year ago, reached out to any of his colleagues.”
“I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking of me, Dr. Ferris.”
“Dr. Padalecki,” Ferris says, completely serious, “I’m asking you to understand that Ackles is too smart for his own good.”
“Yes, I know. He’s also a complete misanthrope. He’s upfront about it at least,” Jared says, a little too sarcastically since he’s talking to his boss but there’s an undercurrent to this conversation that perplexes him, “which is refreshing.”
“Good because Ackles is currently at war with more than half the doctors in the hospital. He’s going to need…a friend.” The word comes out all funny.
The strangely affected cuddliness of Ferris dissipates rapidly as she shifts gears once more, this time going over procedural and administrative issues that Jared dutifully listens to as he continues to wonder what he exactly he’s gotten himself into.
There are only two other people that work alongside Jensen in Diagnostic Medicine at the moment.
Jensen apparently doesn’t know either of their real names because when a young man named Milo comes up to Jared with a question about leukemia in a seventeen year old patient, Jared has him repeat his name three times.
Unfortunately upon realization Jared blurts out, “Oh, you’re Millie!”
“Dr. Ackles calls me that,” Milo says, flicking his head a little to get the too-long bangs out of his eyes.
“Ah.” Jared rifles through the patient charts he’s supposed to be working on as Milo stares at him for a long time, as though he’s trying to size him up. Which is kind of funny since their obvious height discrepancy makes it a bit of a challenge for Milo. “Well. Sorry about that.”
“It’s okay. I think he’s making fun of me because I tell my patients to call me Milo instead of Dr. Ventimiglia”
Milo thinks Jensen might be making fun of him? Wow. Jared wonders why exactly Jensen hired this kid other than on a perverse whim.
Actually, scratch that. The only reason Jensen would choose his underlings would be for extremely bizarre reasons.
“It’s a hard name to say, right? So I wanted to make it easy for my patients. You wouldn’t want to answer to Dr. Venti, you would?”
“Guess not,” Jared agrees, trying not to think of every wrong version of Padalecki he’s suffered before accepting that it’s okay that no one can quite manage his name.
Milo hands him the test results for Jensen’s current patient. His only patient. Jared’s heard plenty of doctors complaining about that in the break room and behind closed doors—the nurses will openly complain in the corridors—and that Jensen does everything to skip out on his clinic duties? Jensen’s eccentricities are universally loathed.
Quickly scanning through the results, Jared instantly surmises, “This isn’t leukemia.”
“Oh, okay,” Milo says. “Damn.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Well, uh this is embarrassing but uh, Dr. Ackles sort of bet me how quick it would take for you to rule out leukemia and I lost.”
Jared blinks slowly. “How long did you say it would take me?”
“I said twenty minutes. Better than Rosenbaum,” and oh, that would, Jared assumes, be the Rosie that Jensen’s mentioned, who apparently might be clinically insane but in a good way, somehow, “he thought it was leukemia.”
“And what did Jensen bet?”
“Twenty seconds. Looks like he has you sized up. He’s freaky like that.”
Jensen’s golfing in his office.
“I’m not golfing,” Jensen says, bringing down the handle of his cane to tap an oversized metal ball bearing into a coffee mug. The metallic clink is loud and apparently Jensen finds it immensely satisfying. “I’m putting. No point in golfing if you’re missing an oh-so important muscle in your leg that consigns you to a life of the high handicapped player.”
He almost manages to finish that sentence without sounding completely bitter.
Jared’s approaching his first year in Princeton and he’s in love.
It makes the winter seem a little less gloomy. Nothing can break his spirit, not even Jensen though he’s trying his hardest.
Jared has dated nine women since moving to New Jersey. With three of these women Jared went on a handful of dates that never go anywhere. He just didn’t feel it.
Five of them had potential but somehow Jensen showed up—he really was not kidding about knowing where every damn bar is—and well. Jensen is good at getting people to hate him and it doesn’t score any points in Jared’s favor.
And then there’s Adrianne.
She took everything Jensen could throw at her. She laughed at him assuming she’s stupid because she’s attractive and an artist. She handled learning that Jared’s divorced from Jensen’s overly chatty mouth with grace and aplomb.
Good thing you’re dating a doctor who’s an idiot. You’re one trip to Niagara away from a doctor’s paycheck. You do know he pays alimony, right? You might only get half a mansion with what he earns.
Adrianne had straightened and smiled wide, and said she’s always dreamed of the day that she’d be known to the art world as Adrianne Palicki-Padalecki.
Of course you’d hyphenate that. You’re so sweet I could vomit rainbows.
Jared’s bought an engagement ring this morning and the weight of it in his coat is strange and wonderful.
Naturally, Jensen notices.
“God, you’re an even bigger idiot than I thought.”
“Not now, Ackles,” Jared says, because Jared’s goal this month is to be respected as a professional when on the clock and calling Jensen by his last name makes it feel like there’s a little distance between them. They’re doctors, they’re taking care of people, not hanging out at each other’s apartments. Well, hanging out at Jared’s apartment, since Jensen never lets Jared go over to his place.
“You’re getting married. When can I tell you how stupid you’re being? If you want to pencil me in for around two that’ll work unless my patient goes into tachycardia again.”
“Why does this matter to you? I’m in love. Adrianne loves me and I haven’t even proposed yet. She might say no or that she’s not ready. But if she is—”
“You want to spend the rest of your life with someone to be a little less miserable? I thought you were more interesting than that. You’re miserable alone, no matter whether or not you have someone else hitched to your misery.”
“You’ve never been in love,” Jared doesn’t meant it to come out as an accusation but that’s how it sounds to his own ears.
“Oh. I’ve loved. Woke up with a legal reason to get all the cool parking spots because I loved someone. At least my pain is treatable and I know better now. You, you’re jumping right in front of the train. Crazy of me to point out that you’re able to get flattened.”
One week later, Jared takes Adrianne to be his wife in Atlantic City.
The week long honeymoon is the best part of the marriage.
She goes to New York three days after they get back to Princeton after accepting a work opportunity she couldn’t pass up and while they get a dog even though Jared has to take care of him—Harley, Jared names him, since Adrianne can’t decide on a name—the marriage feels more like a friendship with random sex thrown in when Jared has time to spend a couple of days in New York City or Adrianne comes home for a long weekend.
Six months later, Adrianne tells him she really, really cares about him but she’s on the threshold of the rest of her life and she feels like she’s being held back.
That Jared’s holding her back.
They never did sign a pre-nup but Jared can’t imagine not giving her everything she wants. She lets him keep the dog, with optional visiting rights on her end.
Jensen is there, at the very end, when the divorce papers are handed to Jared. He’s actually there for a medical reason, he needs Jared advice on whether a patient might have cancer (she doesn’t but it is a really strange case).
“You can say it.”
“What?” Jensen’s distracted, dissecting a tiny stuffed teddy bear that nine year old Marie gave to him as a thank you for taking good care of her mom (she survived six months after diagnosis, stage four ovarian cancer). “What can I say? That teddy bears give us a false sense of security around bears which is why people still get themselves mauled by bears due to their fond childhood memories of bear-shaped creations?”
“No. That I’m an idiot. That I should have waited. That I shouldn’t have asked Adrianne to marry me.”
“Jared,” Jensen says, with a strange amount of restraint, “You are an idiot. But you were going to marry someone and at least Adrianne’s artwork involved naked pictures of her body. Internet porn will only get you so far. Masturbating to your friend’s wife is so much hotter. I hear it breaks a Commandment or two.”
“You coveted her?”
Jensen ignores this. “You want me to make you feel better by making you feel shitty. I’m not going to do that.”
“No? Then who are you, Pod Jensen? Because the Jensen I know lives to insult everyone and everything about them. I think I saw you arguing with the carpet in the break room yesterday.”
“Nonsense, the carpet and I are on excellent relations. Now that trollop of linoleum tile in the cafeteria… it’ll let anyone walk all over it. No standards.”
“Jensen. I—” Jared can’t put it into words. He hurts. He wants something that makes his life better. He needs to be loved. To be in love. And he’s failed again and he can’t imagine a life without Adrianne even though his entire marriage has barely had her there. He needs. Needs to be needed.
He’s kind of messed up right now.
“Come on, Jared. Let’s go get drunk.”
“It’s ten in the morning!”
Jared sighs but since he’s paying—he’s always the one who’s paying—he may as well drink.
Hell. He’s barely in his thirties and twice-divorced. He’s earned it.
The end, alas.