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"We need people for our first open mike night!" Aly had told Jensen and Chris - and everyone else she knew - and since Chris thought Jensen might be nervous, he volunteered to drive both of them in case Jensen needed to mentally prepare, in case he needed someone to calm him down, and in case he needed a couple of beers before and another couple of beers after.

And also, apparently, so Chris could grill him about Matt.

"Is your boyfriend coming?" he asked at the first red light.

"He's not my boyfriend," Jensen said, "and I'm not sure. He said he'd try." They hadn't seen each other since Sunday night, when Jensen went over to Matt's place for a few hours, but they'd talked on the phone once, chatted briefly a couple times online, and Matt had dropped by the coffeeshop yesterday to say hi. But he'd gotten busy - he was teaching a summer class, doing a lot of reading and research and thinking about his future thesis, and working what amounted to a summer job as an accountant - and kind of expected to stay that way.

"You've been out, what, twice? Three times?"

"Two dates, one visit."

"When do you call him your boyfriend?"

"I don't know, Chris, when did you start calling Brittany your girlfriend?" It came out a little snarkier than Jensen planned.

"I don't think I ever did." He shrugged. "Aly and Gus don't think he exists, you know."

"I don't care."

"I just want you to be happy, man. Michael was a douchebag and you deserve a better class of boyfriend, that's all."

"Matt is not Michael. Can we talk about something else?"

"I'm working on getting us a tour, how's that?"

That was fine. It was better than fine. It was more interesting than Jensen's love life, that was for sure.

The bar where Aly worked wasn't much more than a neighborhood dive bar, but it had a good jukebox and thanks to the manager's aborted efforts to get a karaoke night going, it had space for a microphone and speakers, and if three people wanted to get up and sing and play together, they'd just about fit. So one person with a guitar was no trouble.

Jason and Gus were already there holding down a table, and Aly was behind the bar. Having the entirety of Oklahoma Ford there to support him made Jensen feel a little less nervous. They'd all heard him before and he wouldn't have to worry about making a good first impression. And they'd cheer and clap for him, which was always a nice ego boost.

Someone came out to introduce the concept of open mike night and said signups were at the bar, everyone have fun, don't forget to tip the bartenders.

"We like tips!" Aly yelled from behind the bar. Five minutes later she appeared at the guys' table to tell Jensen that she'd put his name down and he was after some woman named Emily.

Emily was a hair off-key but full of enthusiasm and emotion, at least enough to garner some applause. Jensen took his guitar up to the microphone, pulled over a chair that someone had helpfully provided, moved the mike into a better position, and said "Hi".

"Hi!" someone called back.

He glanced around at the bar, which was decently full but only about half the patrons were paying any attention to him. Well, he'd sung at worse.

The song he'd opted to sing was one he and Chris had written a few years ago, when they were both back in Dallas for Thanksgiving. Chris had started it, gotten stuck, and played what he had for Jensen, who had been able to figure out a way to finish it. Oklahoma Ford played it sometimes, but it wasn't one of their better-known songs, and for all Jensen knew, everyone in the audience thought it was his own song.

About halfway through he realized people were listening to him, and as he finished he looked up and noticed Jared and a pretty girl with brown hair in a ponytail edging along the wall. Jared waved. The girl jabbed him in the arm and he gave an embarrassed shrug. He'd apparently forgotten his promise to not be distracting.

After Jensen left the "stage" he went over to where Jared and the girl - who turned out to be his friend Sandy - were leaning against the wall sipping their drinks.

"You're really good," Sandy told him. "Was that your song?"

"Half," Jensen said. "I helped my friend Chris write it."

"You should do another one."

"I might not have a choice. So what'd you think?" he asked Jared. "Worth giving up a Thursday night?"

"Who said I had anything to give up?" Jared grinned. "Sandy's right - you're really good. You got a great voice. And you weren't nervous! He got all nervous when he mentioned this to me on Saturday," he told Sandy.

"I had half a beer. And the whole band is here, and I'm less nervous singing for people I know. If the audience is full of strangers I panic a little bit."

"You'd never know," Sandy said.

"You wanna meet the band?"

"Yeah," Jared said. "You talk about them all the time, it'll be nice to have faces to go with the names."

So Jensen led him and Sandy over to the table, where Gus and Chris were picking apart the couple of people now singing and Jason looked like he was texting someone on his phone. Jensen made introductions, Jared said hi, Chris said "So you're the dude from Texas", and Gus said "You're not the boyfriend?"

"He's not my boyfriend," Jensen repeated for what felt like the twentieth time, at the same time Jared said "I'm not the boyfriend".

"Y'all can sit," Jason said, gesturing to Sandy and Jared as he stood up. "I gotta go. You were really good," he told Jensen. "Liked the song too."

Jensen could see Chris' ego puffing up a little bit.

"Don't forget Saturday afternoon," Gus called as Jason threaded his way through the crowd and out of the bar. "Band practice," he explained to Sandy and Jared.

"Fun," Sandy said.

"Usually." He grinned and stood up. "You guys want anything? I got this round."

"PBR?" Jared said. Sandy shook her head.

When Gus came back with the drinks, he told Jensen that Aly had signed him up again and she wanted him to sing an Oklahoma Ford song, she didn't care which one. This lead to a lively discussion as to which song he should sing, which lead to another lively discussion about how much of the band's current set could be played acoustic, which lead to another lively discussion about acoustic music in general, by which time it was Jensen's turn again.

Sandy had to leave - "I teach small children, I need to be awake," she explained - and at one point when Chris and Gus weren't paying attention, Jared leaned over and whispered "There's something I think I should tell you - Sandy told me to - but I can't tell you here" in Jensen's ear.

"What?" Jensen asked.

"I'll tell you outside. It's kinda private."

"Ok, sure." This sounded like a preamble to the kind of conversation Jensen wasn't necessarily sure he'd want to have.

Jared got up and headed out, and Jensen said "We're just gonna get some air, don't let Aly sign me up any more" to Chris and Gus before following him out.

"So what's so important you have to tell me in private?" he asked, once they were outside. Not that walking down the sidewalk on a Thursday night really counted as "private", but people - and by "people" he meant "Chris and Gus" - were less likely to eavesdrop than in the bar.

"It's about Milo, the buddy I lived with when I first moved here," Jared explained. "I told you we had kind of a falling-out, right? And I moved out."

"Yeah. What, he tried to kill you in your sleep or something?"

Jared took a deep breath. "He was gay, or he thought he was, and one night we... he kissed me and we fooled around some."

"Ok." Was Jared about to come out to him? Jensen wasn't exactly prepared for this.

"Turned out he kind of had a thing for me. And that was cool, but I didn't really feel the same way about him. He was my friend and I loved him, but I didn't love him, you know?" He paused but didn't really wait for Jensen to respond, which was good because Jensen wasn't sure what to say. "But at the same time.... Shit, I can't tell you this."

"Jared." Jensen stopped walking and grabbed Jared's arm. "Are you coming out to me?"

"No? I mean, no, I'm not, I'm straight. But... I didn't hate it. I kinda liked it." He lowered his voice. "I didn't want to fuck him or anything, but we, you know, we messed around and... we both got off, and... yeah."

Huh. Jared had never pinged Jensen as gay, although Jensen would be the first to admit he didn't have the world's most sensitive gaydar, but he'd felt something, just a twinge, and now he wondered if Jared was really bisexual and couldn't admit it to himself, or just hadn't really figured it out yet. Jensen could understand, if that were the case.

"He wanted to be your boyfriend and you weren't ready," Jensen hazarded.

"Pretty much, yeah. And then he just didn't want to be friends any more either."

"Why did Sandy make you tell me?"

"I don't know. Because you're gay, I guess."

"Well, bi, but so what? It doesn't change anything."

"What do you mean?" Jared asked.

"what do I mean about what? Bi? Bisexual? I like guys and girls."

"But you're seeing a guy."

"And before him I had a boyfriend and before him I had a girlfriend. I can tell you about it later if you really want to know, but I don't think it matters. What matters is that, I don't know, you're still the same guy you were ten minutes ago. We're still friends."

"Cool." Jared looked relieved. "Sandy thought it was important."

But why? Did she know something about Jared that Jensen didn't? Did she know something about Jared that Jared didn't?

Jensen was a little ashamed to realize that he wanted to know what Sandy knew. He wanted to know what Jared felt. And he felt a twinge of guilt because he'd lied - knowing this about Jared did change something, and it did change Jensen's attitude towards him.

If I didn't know Matt, Jensen thought now, as they walked back to the bar, I'd take this as a sign that maybe I could show some interest in you.

He couldn't, of course - he was seeing someone, although they hadn't physically seen each other very much and as far as Jensen knew they were still treating things kind of casually, and he had no way of knowing if Jared's brief experience with Milo had any influence over who Jared might be attracted to now.

But his imagination went haring off in an entirely new direction anyway, and he unexpectedly - and guiltily - found himself wishing Danneel had never set him and Matt up.

words: 1903
total words: 26,336


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