Word count: ~3k
Summary: Written for cassiopeia7 for spn_j2_xmas, for the prompt of "He works late on Christmas Eve because he has nothing to go home to. An observant colleague tries to do something about that."
A/N: Thanks to tebtosca for her help and beta. Thanks to the amazing bertee for her tireless modding efforts. Happy holidays!
Jensen waves to his colleagues as they trickle out of the office in twos and threes to get an early start on the holiday. The office closes at noon on Christmas Eve, but by 11:30 everyone has wasted as much time as they could get away with chatting and passing holiday baking around the office and has snuck out early to do their last-minute shopping or cleaning or napping before their Christmas festivities start. It’s snowing a little outside, and the barely-restrained excitement for the holiday is palpable.
“Okay, so you’re really sure you don’t want to come to dinner with us?” asks Danneel Harris, HR Advisor Extraordinaire (though to this day she’s still bitter they won’t let her put that last bit on her business cards). “You know you’re welcome, it’s going to be a big group of people!” She buttons her coat briskly and gathers up a few small gifts from her coworkers to take home.
“Thanks, really. I’ll be fine. Besides, how can I be sure you wouldn’t poison us all?” he teases.
“Did you really have to go there?” she says, smacking him lightly on the chest with the back of her hand. “Give eight people food poisoning one time and they never let you live it down.”
“It’s fine, really. I’m going to go home, open a bottle of Bud or six, and catch up on ‘Breaking Bad.’ It’s gonna be great,” he replies, grinning reassuringly.
“I still can’t believe your parents just randomly flew to Italy a day before Christmas Eve,” she sighs with the innocent bewilderment of someone who’s never met Jensen’s flighty mother or his oblivious father. This is far from the first time they’ve flaked on a family holiday, and he’s certain it won’t be the last. He’s stopped expecting to see them, preferring to be surprised when he does. Less disappointment that way.
Danneel tries a few more times to get Jensen to come to her house for Christmas Eve, but Jensen is really not in the mood for people at this point so he stands firm, eventually sending her on her way with a kiss on the cheek and a promise to get together for lunch next week so he can hear how her party went. Finally he’s left alone in the office and he can drop the fake holiday cheer and relax. Christmas is exhausting.
He gets a solid hour of work in before he’s abruptly startled by the sound of off-key singing.
“Oh the weather outside is frightful...dum de dum delightful..."
He wants to be annoyed that the office isn’t empty as he thought, but the Die Hard quote makes his mouth quirk in amusement despite himself. He can’t quite recognize the voice doing the laughably bad singing, though, and that means he has to get up to see who it is; last thing they need is a random stranger wandering around the office after everyone is gone.
He follows the singing a long way down the hallway and ends up outside the server room. The door is propped open and the singing continues unabated.
“Hey,” he calls out as he approaches and the singing cuts off with a thud and a muttered “Ow, shit!”
Jensen peers into the server room and sees a large, shaggy-haired man on his knees on the floor, screwdrivers and other gadgets strewn about beside him.
“Oh, hi, Jensen,” Jared Padalecki, IT something-or-other - Jensen never can keep all the different flavors of tech nerds straight. He does know Jared though; even though they work in different departments they’ve chatted several times in the break room and hallways, and once or twice in Jensen’s office when his computer needed tweaking. Jared has a quick smile and an infectious laugh, and Jensen has always enjoyed talking to him. Doesn’t necessarily mean he’s happy to see Jared now, though, no matter how hot he is.
“What are you doing here? I thought everyone was gone for Christmas?” Jensen tries not to make it sound like an accusation. He mostly succeeds.
“Yeah, I wanted to get the backup server replaced while everyone was away. It’s going to take a while, so I figured now was the best time to do it.”
Jensen’s surprised. From what little he knows about Jared, he seems like an outgoing, popular guy; seems like he’d want to be with family or friends for the holiday. Jensen wants to ask but he knows how irritating he finds it when people ask him his own holiday plans, so he decides against it.
“And you need to wear antlers to do it?” he asks, gesturing vaguely at the headband with reindeer antlers that Jared is wearing on his head. Jared shakes his head a bit and the tinkling of bells fills the room.
“They help me think,” he replies, with a wink.
Jensen tries to think of a fitting response to that and finds his mind a blank. A winking Jared makes it difficult to form coherent thought, apparently. “Okay, well, I’m gonna be here a few hours too, so I’ll...let you get to it, I guess,” he backs out awkwardly and hightails it back to his own office before Jared can reply.
Smooth, Ackles, really smooth. The voice in his head tells him. Shut up, he tells the voice.
@ @ @
Fifteen minutes later he’s managed to regain his concentration and is peering intently at the open spreadsheet on his monitor when something whizzes into his office and lands with a thud against the wall. Jensen jerks a bit, startled, and when he looks down he sees a small, oddly-shaped object on the floor. He cautiously gets up from his chair and looks around but he doesn’t see anyone. Picking up the object he sees that it’s wrapped in plain white photocopy paper and held together with what looks like a half a roll of Scotch tape. Written on the side in Sharpie pen is “Merry Xmas, Jensen. From Jared”. There’s a lopsided little Christmas tree drawn on the side, with a little star on top colored in yellow highlighter.
He opens the package gingerly and inside he finds a spongy-soft stress ball in the shape of a brain, with one of their supplier’s logos on the side. Jensen grins. Shaking his head, he sits back down at his desk. He places the rainbow-colored sponge beside his monitor, and every once in a while he looks up from his spreadsheet to glance at it and smile a bit.
It’s not that Jensen’s a Scrooge. He doesn’t hate Christmas or anything; he just doesn’t really see what all the fuss is about. He doesn’t begrudge anyone else their enjoyment; he contributes to Toys for Tots and other charities on a regular basis, but just doesn’t see the need to get all invested in it himself. He’d really rather just treat it like any other day, thank you very much.
Half an hour later he comes back from a bathroom break and coffee foraging to find a new package sitting squarely in the middle of his desk. Like before, it’s wrapped in photocopy paper - blue this time, with a really horrible drawing of a reindeer - and when he opens it he finds...a stapler. Picking it up, he makes his way down the hallway to the server room. Jared looks up from where he’s tinkering with the server hardware.
“Did you give me a stapler?” Jared asks, bewildered.
“Um, yeah. Merry Christmas?” Jared says, eyes bright with suppressed laughter.
“Did you give me my own stapler?”
“Maybe.” Jared says. “Do you like it?”
“It’s the best damn stapler I ever got. A Swingline! Thanks, man.” Jensen says solemnly, and after a few seconds they both dissolve into laughter.
“Hey, did you bring any lunch?” Jared asks abruptly. Jensen’s a bit thrown by the change in subject, but he recovers quickly enough to answer.
“Just a sandwich. Why?”
“Well, I have to let this update run for a while; why don’t we eat together?” For some reason it feels almost like Jared is asking him out. Almost. Jensen debates, but only for a minute. He may be a bit antisocial but he’s not stupid: a hot guy asks you to lunch, you don’t eat a sandwich alone in your office. He’s pretty sure it’s a rule.
“Sure, sounds good.”
“Meet me in the lunchroom in ten?” Jared asks, and Jensen nods and returns to his office.
When he gets to the lunchroom ten minutes later, Jared is there with what looks like half the vending machine spread out on the table in front of him. His iPod is beside him on the table, speakers playing Christmas music softly. Jensen’s mouth quirks a bit; of course Jared is the kind of guy to have a Christmas playlist on his iPod.
“I thought we could have a buffet,” Jared explains. “Our own Christmas feast.”
He looks a bit uncertain, like he’s not sure if Jensen would appreciate it or not. Jensen sits down and flips over some of the packets.
“What have we got here? Chips, pretzels, M&Ms, Cheetos. Looks like all the food groups are properly represented.” He grins, and the nervousness leaches out of Jared’s face like it had never been there.
“Nothing but the best for us,” Jared jokes, popping the tab on a can of Coke. “For the gentleman?”
Jensen nods, and Jared pours half the can into a Sheppard & Sons mug, pushing it toward Jensen before pouring the other half into a matching mug.
“A toast!” Jared exclaims. “To the hardest working, not to mention best looking guys in the company.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Jensen smiles, and they clink their mugs together as if they’re the fanciest of champagne flutes.
“Oh, wait. I think you need to wear this,” Jared says, pulling a red and green elf hat out from behind his back on the seat.
“No, no, I really don’t!” Jensen laughs. Jared pouts and cajoles and Jensen finds he really can’t resist those multi-colored eyes and bright smile, so he puts on the stupid hat and gamely holds still when Jared insists on taking a selfie or three of them together. His shoulder feels warm where Jared drapes his arm to get close enough to fit them both in the picture.
Jensen passes over half his sandwich and the two of them slowly make their way through lunch, sampling from the junk food “buffet” Jared laid out. They talk as they eat, about everything from sports (where Jensen learns of Jared’s sort of frightening hatred of Tony Romo), to movies (where Jared learns of Jensen’s secret addiction to old Ninja movies), to anecdotes about their coworkers (where they both agree that Chad in Marketing is high at least 50% of the time and therefore the best salesperson they have) . The time passes quickly, and Jensen realizes at one point that this vending machine lunch is better than any date he’s had in the last six months. Not that this is a date. But if it were. It occurs to Jensen that he doesn’t even know if Jared likes women or men.
“So, uh, Jared,” he coughs, “Your girlfriend doesn’t mind you working late on Christmas Eve?” Subtle.
“Don’t have one,” Jared smiles. “No boyfriend either, in case you’re wondering,” he winks. Well, that’s good news, if completely unhelpful. Jensen lets it go, mostly because he can’t think of a way to pursue it without being obvious. Jensen waits a beat, but Jared doesn’t ask if he has a girlfriend (or boyfriend). Jensen tells himself he’s not disappointed. He’s lying.
@ @ @
They finish lunch and return to work. Jensen finds it hard to concentrate on the proposal though; he keeps finding his thoughts drifting towards Jared. It’s not like he never noticed Jared. A 6’5” Adonis walking around the office is pretty hard not to notice, after all. He just never really allowed himself to consider Jared as anything but a friendly co-worker. But the way Jared has been acting today, it’s almost like he’s flirting. And Jensen would be lying to himself if he didn’t admit he might have been flirting back. A little.
Finally Jensen realizes he’s just spinning his wheels sitting at his desk thinking about Jared instead of working on the proposal. He decides his time could be better spent doing other things. Like seeing if he can put that wide, bright smile on Jared’s face again. He rifles through his desk drawer until he finds what he needs, and sets to work.
Twenty minutes later he finds himself outside the open door of the server room again. As he’s about to rap on the doorjamb he can hear Jared softly singing something that Jensen recognizes as “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid and Jensen has to cough to cover a laugh. The singing stops and Jared looks up sheepishly.
“Little Mermaid, huh?” Jensen says soberly. “Pretty badass.”
“Um. I don’t suppose you could pretend I was singing AC/DC or something?”
“No way,” Jensen grins. “Not only were you singing a song from The Little Mermaid, you knew all the words. It was quite impressive, really!”
“Yeah, well, you knew what it was from, so you can’t talk!” Jared laughs, and Jensen covers his mouth with one hand in pretend consternation.
“Well, I guess you got me there,” he conceds. “Anyway, I brought you a present.”
Jared’s eyes lit up. “For me? Lemme see!” he demands.
Jensen pulls his hand out from behind his back. Cradled in his palm is a small metal object made out of twisted and bent paperclips. He walks forward and places it in Jared’s palm, ignoring the small thrill he feels when their hands slide together.
“A reindeer!” Jensen exclaims, peering closely at the little sculpture. “Hey, that’s actually pretty good!”
“I get bored sometimes in conference calls,” Jensen admits sheepishly. “I’ve gotten pretty good at paperclip sculpting, just to help pass the time.”
“Well, this is way better than a stapler, thanks, man,” Jared says, placing the little reindeer sculpture with great ceremony in a prominent place on his desk.
“Oh, I don’t know about that. It was a great stapler.”
They’re looking at each other with more intensity than the situation normally would warrant. Jensen really wishes he knew if Jared was interested in him; otherwise anything he does next could be extremely awkward. Finally he decides not to chance it, and breaks eye contact in preparation for retreating back to his office.
Jensen’s eyes fly back to Jared’s, whose are warm with amusement and...something else.
“I didn’t really have to replace the server today, you know. I could have done it on Thursday.”
“Why did you do it, then?”
“I heard you telling Danneel you were going to be working late and going home alone tonight. I figured you could use the company.”
“What?” Jensen asks, incredulous. “You changed your Christmas plans for me? What were you supposed to be doing? You didn’t give up Christmas Eve with your family, did you?”
“Nah, relax, man,” Jared soothes. “My family is celebrating next week; my sister and brother are spending Christmas at their in-laws this year. They trade off every year. My parents are in Florida this week.”
Thank god for that at least. “What were you going to be doing then?”
“Well, I was going to go to Danneel’s party,” Jared grins. “But after hearing you were going to be working late alone, I bailed. I suspect you helped me dodge a bullet there, though. I hear her cooking is...ehhh,” he says, rocking his hand from side to side.
“I really did, you know,” Jensen says, a smile finally starting creep across his face now that he knows he hasn’t somehow inadvertently messed with Jared’s holiday plans. “She may be my best friend but that girl can’t cook to save her life. But why would you ditch the party just to hang out with me?”
Jared hesitates for a moment.
“Jared?” Jensen prompts.
Jared points silently to the door frame behind Jensen. Taped with Scotch tape to the wall over the door is…
“Is that mistletoe?” Jensen asks.
“I stole it from Chad’s office,” Jared says, blushing furiously and Jensen feels a twinge of sympathy for the folks in Human Resources - he suspects they be arranging another Sexual Harassment seminar early in the New Year. But then he focuses on the more important matter: the hot IT professional currently looking like he wishes the floor would open up and swallow him whole. He’s kind of adorable that way, but Jensen can’t let him suffer.
“Come here,” He fists his hand in the soft cotton of Jared’s button-down shirt and pulls the taller man toward him over Jared’s desk. Jared’s eyes widen comically in the second before Jensen covers his lips with his own. He can feel Jared holding his breath for an instant before he gets with the program, his lips curving into a smile that Jensen can feel.
Jared’s hand comes up to cradle the back of Jensen’s skull as he begins to participate fully in the kiss deepening it by parting his lips and by extension, Jensen’s. Jensen lets him in, and it’s a relatively chaste kiss, only a hint of tongue, but it fills Jensen with the exciting promise of more. They pull apart slowly and just look at each other for a bit.
“Backup server is done. You finished your work?” Jared asks.
“Yep. All done for the day.”
“You wanna come to my place for dinner, maybe watch some movies?”
“Sounds like my kind of Christmas Eve,” Jensen laughs.
@ @ @
The next morning Danneel texts him.
How’d it go last night?
How did what go? he replies.
Jensen Ackles, I know Jared bailed on my party just to hang out with you. TELL MEEEE!!
In reply he sends back only a picture, one he’d asked Jared to forward him.
You’re welcome! is her reply.
Jensen’s pretty sure she’ll never let him hear the end of it. He’s more than okay with that.