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And in the meantime, he and Jensen would be friends and do stuff together and email each other silly shit and Jensen would get lost the first time he got Jared to invite him over to the house to see his motorcycles and meet his dogs.

Jared was working on the Triumph in the driveway when Jensen finally pulled up to the house. He’d parked his truck on the street to give himself more space. The garage door was open, as was the door into the house from the garage – he didn’t have the air conditioning on so it didn’t matter how many doors he had open – Harley was inside, probably sprawled all over the couch, and Sadie was lying down on the garage floor, watching the great outdoors.

Jared had his dogs trained well enough that they weren’t going to go running off while he was there, but he still had to yell “Sadie!” when Jensen parked his car in front of the house and got out, and Sadie jumped up and went running over to him. She stopped maybe a foot in front of him and started barking, and he backed against the car, clearly startled.

“Sadie!” Jared called again, jumping up to rescue Jensen. “Sit!”

“Uh... Jared?” Jensen said.

“She won’t bite, she just needs to tell you she’s glad to see you. Sadie, sit,” he said again, and this time she sat. It didn’t hurt that he’d pushed on her butt with one hand and was now rubbing the top of her head with his other. “This is Jensen,” he told her, “he’s a friend of mine. He’s harmless.”

Of course Harley picked that time to come running as well, having heard Sadie barking through the open garage door and the windows open in the front of the house. Neither of Jared’s dogs had ever met a stranger, but unlike Sadie, Harley expressed his joy at seeing you by jumping on you. Jared couldn’t catch him in time but Jensen apparently had some experience with dogs, because he knew to put a knee out to push Harley back. Not that this stopped the dog, but it kept his claws from scratching at Jensen’s car.

“Sorry about that,” Jared said, grabbing at Harley’s collar. “This one’s Harley, and the barky one is Sadie. Harley! Sit!” Harley whined, but sat.

Jared wanted to laugh at the sight of Jensen with his back still pressed against his car, Harley and Sadie sitting on the ground in front of him, tails thumping the grass, both of them looking up at him expectantly.

“Um,” Jensen said.

“Guys, come on.” Jared tugged on both dogs’ collars, just enough to get them to move so Jensen could step away from his car. They let him pass, then got up and followed him and Jared back to the driveway, the Triumph, the tools and various bike parts sitting on the asphalt, and Jared’s old radio, which was tuned to NASCAR.

“What are you listening to?” Jensen asked. Trust the musician to ask his first question about what was on the radio.

“NASCAR.” Jared laughed at Jensen’s raised eyebrow. “I fix cars for a living, man, you think I don’t like racing? It’s background noise, mostly.” Jared had grown up listening to NASCAR on the radio, and his mom had cried when Dale Earnhardt had been killed, so any embarrassment about being caught enjoying redneck racing had long since been trained out of him. Besides, lots of well-educated, sophisticated people liked car racing.

(It would only matter this one time, if it mattered at all, because Jared already knew some of the things Jensen liked, and he knew Jensen was better-educated than he was, and sometimes he felt a little stupid and backwater among college-educated people, because he was the only one of his immediate family who’d never been to a four-year college. His mom was an English teacher, even. They were all white-collar people, and he made a living as a mechanic, and sometimes it made him feel inferior, But he read a lot and went to night classes and adult-ed when he could, and he knew he was a smart guy, he just had a different idea of what he wanted to do with his life than the rest of his friends and family.)

He’d figured by now that Jensen really didn’t care what he listened to on the radio. Jensen knew he was kind of a dork and kind of a nerd, and hadn’t run screaming and didn’t judge.

Sadie and Harley were still hanging around, following Jensen as he walked around the Triumph and apparently checked out Jared’s restoration so far.

“This is Elizabeth,” Jared said. “Yes, I name my bikes. The other one is called Pearl.” He gestured towards the garage, where the Ariel – still mostly a shell, but a lot less rusty than when he bought her – leaned against a sawhorse.

“What’d you name the Harley?” Jensen asked. Jared’s dog perked up his ears. “Not you,” Jensen told him. Harley cocked his head. Jared laughed.

“I didn’t. I don’t know why – my truck doesn’t have a name either. The guy I bought the Triumph from gives all his bikes names. He says it makes them run better. The Harley doesn’t need any work, maybe that’s why.”

“We’re confusing your dog.” Jensen pointed. Harley was looking back and forth between them like he was watching a tennis match, listening for his name and no doubt expecting a treat or something.

“You wanna take them for a walk? I could use a break. Just help me bring this stuff into the garage.”

They collected Jared’s tools and miscellaneous parts and supplies and the radio, and after dropping it all in the garage Jared wheeled the Triumph in and pulled the garage door shut. The dogs had followed him and Jensen – they seemed to really like Jensen, which was a plus, although they tended to like most people Jared invited over – and now they followed him into the house, where he washed his hands and changed his shirt and found their leashes.

He took Harley and Jensen took Sadie and they headed down the street, the opposite direction from Jeff’s house, just walking and talking and once or twice letting the dogs run. (This necessitated jogging along with them, but Jared could always use the exercise and Jensen didn’t seem to mind either.) It was a nice day out, hot but with a slight breeze, and the guys chatted about a random, wide-ranging assortment of things, as they usually did, while Harley and Sadie sniffed and pulled at their leashes and walked around each other and got tangled up.

Jensen told Jared stories about the people he worked with and Jared told Jensen stories about the people he worked with, and Jared talked about working on his dad’s car with his dad and brother when he was little, and how his sister was never interested even when she got old enough to help, and Jensen talked about being in the church choir and how his little sister utterly refused to join it – much to his grandmother’s annoyance – and Jared talked about this kung fu movie he’d caught on TV a couple of days ago and Jensen surprised him by not only knowing what movie it was, but filling Jared in on what happened in the first half hour, which Jared had missed.

Jensen talked about Danneel and Jared talked about Sandy and they talked about football and cars and music and comic books, and Jensen came down on the Batman side of the Superman vs Batman debate, because he thought Batman had more depth, and where Superman could just rely on his superstrength to win a fight, Batman could outgun him with accessories.

“’Where does he get all those wonderful toys,’” Jared quoted, laughing. He was a Batman fan too, because Batman had gadgets. And Batman had minions, if you wanted to consider Robin a minion, and he had Alfred.

“Some of the stuff with Robin is a little weird,” Jensen commented. “Like... we’re supposed to think they’re just mentor and mentee? Like there isn’t something else going on there?”

“You sound like Katie.”

Jensen snickered, because he’d heard all about Katie’s tendency to pair off guys with other guys, and then tease them mercilessly about it. Jared had mentioned that she’d started teasing him about Jensen, and Jensen had just shrugged and said he didn’t care.

“We went to see The Dark Knight Returns and afterwards she kept talking about Bruce and the Joker,” Jared went on. “But I think she was just doing it to freak Tom out.”

“That is pretty freaky, yeah.”

They turned around and walked back, and this time Jared kept going past his house to Jeff’s, hoping Jeff would be up for meeting a stranger. He’d be the first person Jared knew who got to meet Jensen, which seemed more than fair considering Jared had already met some of Jensen’s friends.

Jeff was apparently in the middle of baking something, as he came to the door wearing an apron and covered in flour. Harley and Sadie swarmed him – they’d learned not to jump – and Jared apologized for interrupting him.

“Five minutes,” Jeff said, grinning to take the potential sting out of his words. But Jared understood – Jeff was reclusive and sometimes nervous about meeting new people and going new places, although mostly he was sometimes nervous about leaving his house, and he had his reasons which meant Jared was always careful. Jeff had only been to his house once, not counting the days he came by to walk the dogs, and Jared wondered sometimes if Jeff didn’t mind doing that because no one was home and he wouldn’t have to talk to anyone.

“Jensen, Jeff. Jeff, Jensen.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jensen said, juggling Sadie’s leash so he could hold out his hand for Jeff to shake. It took Jeff a minute to realize that’s what he was doing, and take the hand. Jared schooled his face to not look as impressed as he actually was – Jeff was touch-sensitive, especially when it came to people he didn’t know. But maybe a handshake was ok.

“He wanted to meet the dogs,” Jared explained to Jeff. Jeff nodded. “They like him.”

Jeff bent down to scratch their ears. “They’re really friendly,” he said.

“We walked down that way for a while – “ Jared gestured down the street, back the way they’d come “ – so by the time we get home they should be ready for a nap.”

“You’d be surprised. You like dogs?” Jeff asked Jensen.

“More than cats,” Jensen said. Harley barked, as if to say “You damn well better like us more than cats,” and Jared laughed.

“Sandy’s roommate has a cat,” Jared said. “She calls it the Queen Bitch. It doesn’t like me.”

“It probably knows you’re a dog person. They can tell.”

“That’s what Sandy’s roommate says too. We’ll let you go back to your baking,” he told Jeff. “What’re you making?”

“Bread,” Jeff said. “Cinnamon raisin. If it’s good I’ll make you a loaf.”

“Thanks, man. Tell Hilarie I said hi. Come on guys,” he said to the dogs, “leave Jeff alone. He’s not gonna feed you.”

Jeff scratched the dogs one more time and then went inside and shut the door.

“Sometimes he’s kind of weird around people he doesn’t know,” Jared told Jensen, to stave off any comments. They headed back towards the house. “He’s a little... he was in the first Gulf War, and he came home kind of messed up. Hilarie says he’s a lot better than he used to be – I mean, when she met him he wouldn’t even open the door unless he was knew you were coming. He didn’t used to leave the house.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah. Having dogs really helps him, though. He’s got two. He comes by during the day when I’m at work and lets the beasts out and makes sure they’re not starving or dying of thirst. Not that you’re gonna waste away in ten hours, right?” He bent over Harley and rubbed his ears. “His dogs like my dogs.”

“I’m not surprised,” Jensen said. “I like your dogs.”

“Good thing, too. I couldn’t be friends with you if you didn’t.” Jensen just rolled his eyes. Jared laughed. He liked having friends who knew when he was joking.

When they got back to the house, Harley and Sadie went into the kitchen, slobbered up the water in their dishes, and then wandered into the living room and flopped on the floor.

“Can I get something to drink?” Jensen asked. “I’m parched.”

“Yeah, sure.” Jared cracked open the fridge. “Are you hungry? I could eat.”

“You can always eat.”

It hadn’t taken Jensen long to learn that Jared was a bottomless pit.

“I have a lot of leftovers,” Jared said, pulling things out of the fridge. Cold meatloaf (he loved meatloaf so he made it a lot), pizza, spaghetti left over from last night, a couple pieces of barbecued chicken, green beans (although he bought them mostly for the dogs), half a head of lettuce, half a bag of baby carrots, English muffins, a little tub of hummus.... By the time he got to the two pieces of chocolate cake, Jensen was laughing at him. “What? I’m a growing boy.”

“Growing into what?”

“A bigger boy.” Jared grinned. “What do you want to drink?” He stepped away from the fridge so Jensen could see what he had.

“Soda’s fine. Your meatloaf’s looking kind of green – maybe we should have that for lunch.”

So Jared cut the meatloaf into slices, got out some bread and the ketchup, found an onion, and they made meatloaf sandwiches and took the plates and their sodas into the back yard to eat. Jared had an old metal table and a couple of chairs, as well as two folding lounge chairs of the kind you usually found next to someone’s backyard pool. He liked sitting in one of the lounge chairs with a beer and a book and his dogs when the weather was nice – or late at night when it wasn’t as hot – but for now they sat at the table.

“Someday I want a house with a yard,” Jensen said. He pointed to the Weber grill. “Do you grill a lot?”

“All summer, yeah. I made myself burgers a couple nights ago. I’ll probably have a Fourth of July thing and really give it a workout. You’re invited.”

Jensen ducked his head. Was he blushing? How weird and cute. “Thanks,” he said.

They ate in silence, the first real silence since they’d met, but it was a good, comfortable silence, and Jared didn’t mind. It felt good to share his house and his hospitality with Jensen, and it felt good to be able to just sit across the table from him in the back yard and not have to say anything.

“Jared...” Jensen said, after they’d finished their sandwiches and were just sucking on the ice from their sodas.

“Yeah?”

“You know what I really want to do?”

“What?”

“Ride your Harley.” He looked a little surprised at himself. “Oh wow, that came out more suggestive than I thought.”

Jared laughed. “I have an extra helmet. We’ll go for a drive. But be careful – that’s how I fell in love with motorcycles. Someone took me out on his.”

“Oh?” Jensen quirked an eyebrow.

“Yeah – this ranch hand on my grandparents’ ranch had an old Harley and I bugged him until he took me for a ride. My grandma hit the ceiling but it was so worth it. It was... well, you’ll see. When I was thirteen I thought it was better than sex. I felt like I could go anywhere and do anything, be anything. It was love at first ride.” His voice trailed off as he remembered what it felt like, to be thirteen years old and tasting real freedom for the first time. He realized Jensen was looking at him funny. “I’m kind of a dork, I know.”

Jensen shrugged. “I like listening to people talk about something they love. Wait until I really get going about music.”

“Later. Come on.” He stood up, took his plate and glass into the kitchen – assuming Jensen would follow, which he did – and then got a jacket for himself and one for Jensen out of his closet. “Put this on,” he said, handing the jacket over. “Protection. And it can get kind of cold.”

Jensen shrugged into the jacket and followed Jared into the garage, where Jared handed him the spare helmet and put his own on. He opened the garage door, wheeled the Harley out, closed the garage door again, wheeled the Harley down to the street, and straddled it.

“Well?” he said, wanting to laugh at Jensen’s dubious face. “You’ll fit.” Jensen swung a leg over the seat, making Jared duck, and settled himself in back. “You can hold on to me or the back of the seat. I might be more stable.” Jensen wrapped his arms around Jared’s waist. “You ready?” He turned his head. Jensen nodded. “When I turn, lean into it. Look at my inside shoulder, if that helps. Hang on.”

He turned his key in the ignition, listened to the motor purr, kicked up the kickstand, and headed down the street. At the first turn he felt Jensen’s arms tighten around him but Jensen also leaned in the right direction, so Jared didn’t worry. He cruised around the neighborhood for a little bit, just getting Jensen used to the bike, before turning onto a major road and heading out away from town.

There were few things Jared loved as much as riding his bike, and only one activity he loved more. (And sometimes even that wasn’t as exciting.) There was nothing like the sight of the road running under your wheels, nothing like the rumble of the motor between your thighs, nothing like the landscape rolling past you. You could wave at folks in cars or along the side of the road. Every so often he’d ride past people on horseback, and a couple of times they’d raced him, them on the grass and him on the road, all of them laughing.

This was one of the things that defined Jared to himself, and he was thrilled that Jensen wanted to share it. He was thrilled that he could share it.

They rode east, away from the sun, Jared thinking about where they could go and what he could show Jensen, and Jensen eventually relaxing his grip a little bit. Jared risked a look over his shoulder and Jensen was sitting up, looking around, and in that one quick glance Jared noticed he was smiling.

After about an hour Jared pulled off the road, slowing along the shoulder until he finally came to a stop. He put his feet down to steady the bike and waited for Jensen to get off. It took Jensen a minute, and then he slid off the seat, pulled off the helmet, and hung it on the top of the sissy bar so he could scrub his hands through his hair. It stuck up in funny angles. Jared grinned and pulled his helmet off as well.

“So what did you think?” he asked. Jensen shook his head, clearly speechless. “Pretty fucking cool, huh?”

Jensen just stood there, grinning like a fool, and Jared had the weirdest, weirdest twin sensations – one, that Jensen was going to kiss him, and two, that he wanted him to.

Jared shook his head to clear it.

“Jesus,” Jensen finally managed.

“Better than sex?”

“Depends on the sex. But better than bad sex. It’s good for thinking.”

“Yeah? What did you think?”

“Music. Songs. Stuff.” He still looked a little dazed.

“You ok?” Jared asked, a little worried. “You want to take a break before we head back?”

“I just want to stretch my legs.” Jensen bent over, did some knee bends, walked in a circle around Jared and the bike. Jared put down the kickstand and climbed off. It wasn’t a bad idea. He shrugged out of his jacket, hot now that he wasn’t moving. Jensen did the same, and they draped both jackets over the bike’s seat.

They walked five minutes away from the Harley, then turned and walked back. Jensen was quiet, apparently still thinking. Jared didn’t see a reason to say anything either. He felt as if he’d just told Jensen something really revealing, something important, and Jensen was digesting it. But really all he’d done was take Jensen out on his bike – it wasn’t as if he’d told Jensen some deep, dark secret.

But he had shared something fundamental about himself. So maybe it was the same thing as if he’d actually said words.

Eventually they got back on the bike and went home. Jared stopped for gas and Jensen borrowed a dollar for a bottle of water, which they shared before continuing on.

“Thank you,” Jensen said, after they got back to the house and had divested themselves of their riding gear.

“For what?”

“For indulging me, I guess.”

“Thanks for wanting to go. Sometimes people are freaked out. It’s really cool that you weren’t.”

“It’s really important to you.” Jensen shrugged. “You came to see me when I did open mike night.”

“That was fun.... I’d do that again. Do you do karaoke? You can come with me the next time Sandy makes me go. She’s got this friend, Johnny, they go to karaoke together. He’s kind of flamboyant and he gets really into it. He’s a fun guy. I can call you.”

“Maybe. I’m not the biggest karaoke fan.” He cracked his neck. “I should probably go. I had a really, really great time today. I’m glad I came over.”

“Yeah, me too.” Jared could tell he was grinning stupidly. “Come by any time. Give me a call to make sure I’m home – I run errands a lot on weekends, because I can – but if I’m here you can totally come over.”

“Thanks. Next time you should probably come to my house, though. How are your videogame football skills? I can kick your ass at Madden 10.” He grinned.

“That’s what you think. If you’re gonna go, go, otherwise I’ll start suggesting you stay for dinner, and then the dogs will sit on you and you’ll never leave.”

“I wouldn’t hate that. But I gotta go. I’ll call you. Take care.”

“If you get lost, give me a call. You need a GPS, man.”

“Still don’t trust them.” Jensen went out through the garage and Jared followed. He waved goodbye as Jensen got in his car and drove off, and then went back inside to tell Harley and Sadie that he’d taken Jensen out on his bike and Jensen had liked it.



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smackenzie

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